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HalfMooner
Dingaling

Philippines
15831 Posts

Posted - 05/16/2006 :  18:56:06  Show Profile Send HalfMooner a Private Message
It is common for religious people to say, or think, that nonreligious people have no "moral compass." That infidels lack any purpose in life, aside from seeking empty pleasure for its own sake. I've personally been told this numerous times by people who did not know me well, often in a distrustful, accusing manner. How can a person who does not believe in divine judgement be trusted?

Of course, whether we are sociopaths or heroes depends on our upbringing and general life experiences, not upon religious belief or disbelief. Religion, like all social culture, has an influence, but that works both ways. Religion can teach you that all races are equal ("Red and yellow, black and white; All are precious in His sight; Jesus loves the little children of the world." So ran a Sunday school song I used to sing.) But religion can also teach intolerance. It has incited pogroms and crusades, jihads and suicide bombings, Jonestown and the Tokyo subway gassings. As a whole, it is clear to me that the religious are no more "moral" in their treatment of their fellow human beings than are the irreligious. Certainly, the ethical or moral variation between individuals within each group are far greater than that between the groups as a whole.

But though I see the argument by the religious who think their irreligious neighbors are all morally not only Hell-bound but Hell-worthy to be false on the face of it, this begs the question of the "Purpose of Life."

What can be the Purpose of Life for a secular person who believes in no creator, no supernatural moral guiding force in the universe?

Funny you should ask. I think I have found an answer.

The central lesson of evolution, I think, is that is a process to allow the survival of the species. Survival is nature's Purpose of Life. As part of the biota of the Earth, we humans are a continuing act of evolution.

Simply put (and you'd need someone more scholarly than myself to put this in less simple terms), a proper Purpose of Life for nonreligious secular humanists is to do whatever we can to guarantee the survival of the human species and the global environment in which it lives. Thus we strive to survive as individuals, and sometimes sacrifice so that others may live. Altruism is an evolved behavior.

Call my idea Social Darwinism if you will. If it is, it's the good kind. I know this is vague, but since it's really all there is, it's got to be enough for me. That's all I've got, or need, for my Purpose of Life.

Your comments?


Biology is just physics that has begun to smell bad.” —HalfMooner
Here's a link to Moonscape News, and one to its Archive.

Edited by - HalfMooner on 05/16/2006 18:56:43

H. Humbert
SFN Die Hard

USA
4574 Posts

Posted - 05/16/2006 :  19:31:57   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send H. Humbert a Private Message
What about the argument that the "purpose" of life is to pass on one own's genes? Or at least the genes of one's close relatives.

I think if most people were honest with themselves, they would agree that the highest priority in their lives is the safety of themselves and of their family. Everything else comes secondary. While selflessness and altruism do exist, I think it's somewhat disingenous to pretend they are the norm. When a fire breaks out in a crowded building, you are as likely to be crushed to death by the mass of people rushing to save their own hides as you are to die from the flames.


"A man is his own easiest dupe, for what he wishes to be true he generally believes to be true." --Demosthenes

"The first principle is that you must not fool yourself - and you are the easiest person to fool." --Richard P. Feynman

"Face facts with dignity." --found inside a fortune cookie
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Dave W.
Info Junkie

USA
26009 Posts

Posted - 05/16/2006 :  19:53:29   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Visit Dave W.'s Homepage Send Dave W. a Private Message
"Social Darwinism," as I've known and used the term, is nothing more than an everyone-for-him/herself extreme take on a misrepresentation of "survival of the fittest." Under Social Darwinism, you don't bother to treat drug addicts, you just let them eliminate themselves from the gene pool (for just one example). Your idea is the polar opposite of Social Darwinism, and were I you, I'd fight that moniker tooth and nail rather than invite it.

That said, I don't agree with your thesis, simply because the religious folks who ask that question are wondering what your individual life will mean after the friggin' heat-death of the universe in another 1080 years. Whether you've aided your fellow humans now or even a billion years from now won't mean squat after every last sun has winked out.

There's always the hope that sometime in the future, mankind will figure out a way to protect itself from such inevitability - perhaps by finding a method of tapping useful amounts of "vacuum energy," or by discovering a way to transport ourselves into different, younger, universes - but right now such hopes remain the subject of science fiction only. Were they even modestly tangible today, then simply extending the lifespan of the species as a whole would provide a meaning in the sense that the religious use it.

On the other hand, I don't see what meaning the religious get out of their religions, either. Take Christianity, for example. Live a good, decent and faithful life so that one might enter Heaven for all eternity. But what's in Heaven? You get to lolligag around for eternity, singing God's praises. For a "purpose in life," I can't think of anything less selfish and ultimately dehumanizing than that. Maybe I'm misreading the Bible, and there is something grander for the individual. But I also can't think of another mainstream religion which has anything better going for it.

Well, there is the idea of the bhodisatva from Hinduism and/or Bhuddism. A bhodisatva is a person who's actually attained enlightenment but rather than going on to Nirvana him/herself, sticks around on Earth to help teach others the way. Now that is a goddammed purpose to life, and one I would respect mightily if ever I were to run across one of 'em. Catholic saints might be somewhat comparable, in that they might attract some people to the faith through the miracles attributed to them. The Protestants have nothing remotely like it, though: they seem to be entirely me-me-me.

- Dave W. (Private Msg, EMail)
Evidently, I rock!
Why not question something for a change?
Visit Dave's Psoriasis Info, too.
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HalfMooner
Dingaling

Philippines
15831 Posts

Posted - 05/16/2006 :  20:08:41   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send HalfMooner a Private Message
H.H. objected:
quote:
What about the argument that the "purpose" of life is to pass on one own's genes? Or at least the genes of one's close relatives.

I think if most people were honest with themselves, they would agree that the highest priority in their lives is the safety of themselves and of their family. Everything else comes secondary. While selflessness and altruism do exist, I think it's somewhat disingenous to pretend they are the norm. When a fire breaks out in a crowded building, you are as likely to be crushed to death by the mass of people rushing to save their own hides as you are to die from the flames.
I see a distinction without a difference between what we are saying. It's a matter of degree; quantity, not quality. By adding, "Or at least the genes of one's close relatives," you are already opening the door to the pernicious practice of altruism. And how closely must those relatives you would risk yourself be, genetically? Immediate family? Cousins? Grandparents who are no longer part of the active gene pool? Almost any member of humanity? A beloved family dog?

At risk to yourself, would you save an adopted daughter from a fire, though she is not genetically close? Certainly, people vary widely in their altruism, given different cultural norms, etc. We even change in our attitudes from day to day, and in differing contexts. As a defense mechanism, some of us put on the cloak of tough individualists who only look out for themselves. (That's how I perceived New Yorkers, before 9/11 showed me their heroic side.) Self-sacrificing heroes may never be a majority, but they are a necessary minority.

But, whether we know or admit it or not, many of us are capable of heroic acts in defense of complete strangers. And I think it's the survival of our species (and, sometimes by extension, other species) that is the evolutionary reason this happens.



Biology is just physics that has begun to smell bad.” —HalfMooner
Here's a link to Moonscape News, and one to its Archive.
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HalfMooner
Dingaling

Philippines
15831 Posts

Posted - 05/16/2006 :  20:17:10   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send HalfMooner a Private Message
Dave W. scribed:
quote:
That said, I don't agree with your thesis, simply because the religious folks who ask that question are wondering what your individual life will mean after the friggin' heat-death of the universe in another 1080 years. Whether you've aided your fellow humans now or even a billion years from now won't mean squat after every last sun has winked out.
Well, considering how much of a procrastinator I about nearly every other subject, the Heat Death of the Universe is just one more thing that I'm going to utterly ignore until the day after it's happened.




Biology is just physics that has begun to smell bad.” —HalfMooner
Here's a link to Moonscape News, and one to its Archive.
Edited by - HalfMooner on 05/16/2006 20:20:49
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H. Humbert
SFN Die Hard

USA
4574 Posts

Posted - 05/16/2006 :  20:18:31   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send H. Humbert a Private Message
quote:
Originally posted by HalfMooner
And I think it's the survival of our species (and, sometimes by extension, other species) that is the evolutionary reason this happens.
You sure those aren't just the lulls in between wars?


"A man is his own easiest dupe, for what he wishes to be true he generally believes to be true." --Demosthenes

"The first principle is that you must not fool yourself - and you are the easiest person to fool." --Richard P. Feynman

"Face facts with dignity." --found inside a fortune cookie
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HalfMooner
Dingaling

Philippines
15831 Posts

Posted - 05/16/2006 :  20:26:19   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send HalfMooner a Private Message
H.H. wrote:
quote:
You sure those aren't just the lulls in between wars?
What lulls?

I think war is largely made possible by elites taking advantage of the altruism of individual soldiers, and twisting it into its deadly opposite.


Biology is just physics that has begun to smell bad.” —HalfMooner
Here's a link to Moonscape News, and one to its Archive.
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BigPapaSmurf
SFN Die Hard

3192 Posts

Posted - 05/17/2006 :  06:59:59   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send BigPapaSmurf a Private Message
Sorry but there is no purpose, there is only what is possible.

Now if we designed something like AI, that might have a purpose.

"...things I have neither seen nor experienced nor heard tell of from anybody else; things, what is more, that do not in fact exist and could not ever exist at all. So my readers must not believe a word I say." -Lucian on his book True History

"...They accept such things on faith alone, without any evidence. So if a fraudulent and cunning person who knows how to take advantage of a situation comes among them, he can make himself rich in a short time." -Lucian critical of early Christians c.166 AD From his book, De Morte Peregrini
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furshur
SFN Regular

USA
1536 Posts

Posted - 05/17/2006 :  08:31:38   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send furshur a Private Message
Man's purpose of life is identical to a Gnu's purpose of life. Unfortunately for us we have and oddly over sized brains which we use to delude ourselves into searching for some deep inner meaning to life.

Have a nice day.


If I knew then what I know now then I would know more now than I know.
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BigPapaSmurf
SFN Die Hard

3192 Posts

Posted - 05/17/2006 :  10:10:54   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send BigPapaSmurf a Private Message
What I meant to say was this,

There is no evidence that 'purpose' or 'meaning' are anything but concepts created by and for humans so that we can interpret our envionment.

Edit: Also, Im not saying that things cant be given a purpose, just that theres nothing to say that purpose is intrinsic to nature/life.

"The rocks purpose is to make clams easier to open!" Mr. Otterson

"...things I have neither seen nor experienced nor heard tell of from anybody else; things, what is more, that do not in fact exist and could not ever exist at all. So my readers must not believe a word I say." -Lucian on his book True History

"...They accept such things on faith alone, without any evidence. So if a fraudulent and cunning person who knows how to take advantage of a situation comes among them, he can make himself rich in a short time." -Lucian critical of early Christians c.166 AD From his book, De Morte Peregrini
Edited by - BigPapaSmurf on 05/17/2006 11:00:05
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Wendy
SFN Regular

USA
614 Posts

Posted - 05/17/2006 :  11:28:48   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Send Wendy a Yahoo! Message Send Wendy a Private Message
quote:
Originally posted by HalfMooner

It is common for religious people to say, or think, that nonreligious people have no "moral compass." That infidels lack any purpose in life, aside from seeking empty pleasure for its own sake. I've personally been told this numerous times by people who did not know me well, often in a distrustful, accusing manner. How can a person who does not believe in divine judgement be trusted?


My way around this personally is to refer to myself (an agnostic) as ethical, rather than moral.

As for purpose in life, just about everyone wants to better themselves in their own eyes. When I do a kindness for someone I hope they will think well of me, and I hope my children will see my example and grow up to be kind to others. I hope the person I helped would return the favor, should I ever need their help.

It really is the basic "Do Unto Others..." thing. We are respectful because we want respect. We help our old neighbors with yard work because we hope someone will help us when we're old. We do these things because they do potentially help us advance and survive. Usually, they also make us feel good, so there's instant gratification, too.

My husband's dad loved yard work. Whenever he'd borrow a tool from a neighbor he would return it in a timely manner in better condition than when he borrowed it. People actually enjoyed lending him things. Survival is a heck of a lot easier if you're the kind of person other people want to help.

Millions long for immortality who don't know what to do on a rainy afternoon.
-- Susan Ertz
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trogdor
Skeptic Friend

198 Posts

Posted - 05/17/2006 :  20:42:16   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send trogdor a Private Message
quote:
Originally posted by HalfMooner

It is common for religious people to say, or think, that nonreligious people have no "moral compass."


I have replaced mine with a state of the art Moral GPS system!

quote:
That infidels lack any purpose in life, aside from seeking empty pleasure for its own sake.

Yes, well I take what I can get.
quote:
I've personally been told this numerous times by people who did not know me well, often in a distrustful, accusing manner. How can a person who does not believe in divine judgement be trusted?

I have never been accused of being less moral because I am an atheist. Although that may be because I live in a very liberal area.
quote:
Of course, whether we are sociopaths or heroes depends on our upbringing and general life experiences, not upon religious belief or disbelief. Religion, like all social culture, has an influence, but that works both ways. Religion can teach you that all races are equal ("Red and yellow, black and white; All are precious in His sight; Jesus loves the little children of the world." So ran a Sunday school song I used to sing.) But religion can also teach intolerance. It has incited pogroms and crusades, jihads and suicide bombings, Jonestown and the Tokyo subway gassings. As a whole, it is clear to me that the religious are no more "moral" in their treatment of their fellow human beings than are the irreligious. Certainly, the ethical or moral variation between individuals within each group are far greater than that between the groups as a whole.

so far I agree with you...
quote:
But though I see the argument by the religious who think their irreligious neighbors are all morally not only Hell-bound but Hell-worthy to be false on the face of it, this begs the question of the "Purpose of Life."

Yesterday I went for a bike ride. It was not for exercise or to pick up groceries. I merely wanted to enjoy the great day. Did my Bike ride need a purpose to be enjoyable? No.

quote:
What can be the Purpose of Life for a secular person who believes in no creator, no supernatural moral guiding force in the universe?

Funny you should ask. I think I have found an answer.

The central lesson of evolution, I think, is that is a process to allow the survival of the species. Survival is nature's Purpose of Life. As part of the biota of the Earth, we humans are a continuing act of evolution.

Simply put (and you'd need someone more scholarly than myself to put this in less simple terms), a proper Purpose of Life for nonreligious secular humanists is to do whatever we can to guarantee the survival of the human species and the global environment in which it lives. Thus we strive to survive as individuals, and sometimes sacrifice so that others may live. Altruism is an evolved behavior.

Call my idea Social Darwinism if you will. If it is, it's the good kind. I know this is vague, but since it's really all there is, it's got to be enough for me. That's all I've got, or need, for my Purpose of Life.

Your comments?






now I will have to beg to differ. Read the Selfish Gene by Richard Dawkins. One of the important points that it makes is that “Survival of the Fittest” does not refer to the fittest species. It refers to the fittest individual. The purpose life is not to ensure the survival of the species but instead to ensure the survival of ones own genes.

I cannot stress enough the importance of reading The selfish gene it does not contain much jargon and is only about 200 pages. It should explain the errors in your thinking far better that I could.

all eyes were on Ford Prefect. some of them were on stalks.
-Douglas Adams
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Compassion
New Member

8 Posts

Posted - 05/24/2006 :  22:49:01   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send Compassion a Private Message
I'd rather die than to try to survive if I believed in evolution. Survival will not lead to anything if you do not use your life wisely. It is better to make many accomplishments within a week of life, than do nothing for a century.

What does it matter that your future kids/grandkids and so on survive? Life is temporarily and just to feel "full" will not be any better than dying the instance you were born. Because if you do not go to heaven, or do not believe in heaven, you will be "wiped from existance" as if nothing you did has ever made any effect.

Are YOU going to heaven? Read the Bible, God's Word, to find out the truth. God is filled with compassion for you, His creation, and will reach out to bring you salvation. He sent his son, Christ Jesus, as a substitute for your sins. Accept Christ into your heart once and for all to be saved. God's deliverance from death for you is here!
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marfknox
SFN Die Hard

USA
3739 Posts

Posted - 05/25/2006 :  00:14:16   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Visit marfknox's Homepage  Send marfknox an AOL message Send marfknox a Private Message
Sorry Half, but I really don't think we should be consulting evolution when developing our sense of ethics and meaning of life. Science is good for figuring out the nature of reality. What meaning we put on that reality is up to us. I don't know that there is any good kind of social Darwinism.

I think I know what you are getting at, and indeed there is plenty of evidence that altruistic impulses in human beings are as natural and evolved as selfish impulses. But nature's a real cold bitch, and hopefully we can be kinder to each other than that. We have to act and think within the constraints of our natural form and environment. But we should be wary of assigning any purpose to the natural forces like evolution themselves.

"Too much certainty and clarity could lead to cruel intolerance" -Karen Armstrong

Check out my art store: http://www.marfknox.etsy.com

Edited by - marfknox on 05/25/2006 00:15:21
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marfknox
SFN Die Hard

USA
3739 Posts

Posted - 05/25/2006 :  00:26:46   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Visit marfknox's Homepage  Send marfknox an AOL message Send marfknox a Private Message
Compassion wrote:
quote:
I'd rather die than to try to survive if I believed in evolution.
Huh?

quote:
Survival will not lead to anything if you do not use your life wisely. It is better to make many accomplishments within a week of life, than do nothing for a century.

What does it matter that your future kids/grandkids and so on survive?
OK, I agree with you there.

quote:
Life is temporarily and just to feel "full" will not be any better than dying the instance you were born.
Better is a value judgement. Values are created by conscious beings. Hey, I'm a conscious being! And according to all the things I value, it is way better that I'm alive and doing cool stuff with my life now than if I had died the instance I was born.

quote:
Because if you do not go to heaven, or do not believe in heaven, you will be "wiped from existance" as if nothing you did has ever made any effect.
Well actually, I'm having an effect on the natural world right now, so even if I blink out of total existance for eternity right now, I still had an effect on the universal, in however a small way. But regardless of that, just because a conscious being has a transient existence doesn't mean it can't have had a rich range of meaningful experiences. Or hell, screw meaning, just live life for all that it is.

In the words of Viktor E Frankl (Secular Jewish Holocaust survivor): "if you expect nothing more from life, life still expects things from you: to be there for someone else, to use a talent, to bear suffering."

It doesn't matter if I blink out of existence after I die. I'm here now and I'm going go eat some of that fresh pineapple in my fridge.

"Too much certainty and clarity could lead to cruel intolerance" -Karen Armstrong

Check out my art store: http://www.marfknox.etsy.com

Edited by - marfknox on 05/25/2006 00:28:45
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HalfMooner
Dingaling

Philippines
15831 Posts

Posted - 05/25/2006 :  03:48:14   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send HalfMooner a Private Message
The person falsely labeling him/herself "Compassion" wrote:
quote:
What does it matter that your future kids/grandkids and so on survive?
It matters more than anything to me, and to any sane parent. Your insane religion cheapens life like any other authoritarian ideology. It really scares the piss out of me that people like you presently have so much power in our country. A man with a belief in a coming "Rapture" that makes life moot should not be sitting at an Oval Office desk that has a big, red button.

You say in effect that our kids are expendable. Like a child molester, you are someone I'd never let near mine!


Biology is just physics that has begun to smell bad.” —HalfMooner
Here's a link to Moonscape News, and one to its Archive.
Edited by - HalfMooner on 05/25/2006 05:48:48
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