Shove it, Cosmos!

I love the cosmos.  I really do.  It’s quite an amazing place.  I love it so much that when the Museum of the Rockies in Bozeman, MT offered an evening of star gazing in Yellowstone National Park using a fleet of high powered telescopes, my family and I packed up the tent and braved the cold Wyoming air to get a close up view (relatively speaking) of planets and galaxies far, far away.

Prior to getting to peer into the heavens with the guidance and equipment of some amazing volunteers from the Southwest Montana Astronomical Society, a lecture was given by an astronomer positing that YNP could well be a good representation of what Mars may have previously looked like.  It was an interesting presentation, which ended by posing a question about the possibility of life on other Earth-like planets located elsewhere in the universe.   The observation was made that a lot of conditions would have to be met in order for another life-permitting planet to exist.  The Earth seems to be quite special in this regard, given the number of “just-so” conditions that it meets to make life possible.  It seemed at least somewhat unlikely to this man of science that another planet might exist which would permit life, especially intelligent life, and thus there is the distinct possibility that planet Earth is one of a kind.  It followed then, in this gentleman’s estimation, that we should, therefore, respect and take care of the Earth.

Why?  A naturalistic bent seemed implicit in this presentation, and in that context I see no objective reason why anybody should take care of the planet, or anything else for that matter.  If the universe is an accidental mess of meaningless matter, on what real grounds should I care about the Earth or any other random ball of rock? If the universe is without meaning, my life is without meaning, and all other lives are without meaning, then I fail to see why I should care about any particular planet’s uniqueness. There’s nothing on a naturalistic worldview that compels me to care about anything.

This seems absurd though. Most people seem to have an intrinsic sense of obligation to protect not only other people, but other special collections of matter, such as the Earth, as well. On a decidedly Christian worldview this makes sense. Biblically speaking, humanity has been gifted with Creation by God, and has been charged with being a good steward of that gift. In this instance, among others, the Christian worldview seems to have significanly more explanatory power to describe reality than does naturalism.

If you talk me into a naturalistic worldview, you simultaneously talk me into an objectively meaningless existence. In that case, the cosmos can shove it! Seeing how this sort of meaningless existence doesn’t seem to comport with reality though, I think I’ll continue to appreciate the stars, refrain from littering, and thank God for the beauty of places like Yellowstone National Park.

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12 thoughts on “Shove it, Cosmos!

  1. Always a pleasure to read your barfs. I love your perspective that if we are an accident then what is the point? Why should we care if the whales survive or the globe’s climate is changing? The reason we should care is we aren’t mistakes and shouldn’t mess up God’s great creation.

  2. Krauss responds more eloquently than I could. I find it much more satisfying that our meaning comes from us and what we make of our lives, rather than being handed down from on high.

      • You can pretend to give your life some sort of subjective meaning, but on that view I still see no reason why I should take care of the planet. In fact, it makes a lot more sense to me that I should rape and pillage the universe in the most efficient way possible, since when I’m gone, I’m gone. Live it up, and bollocks to everybody else except the ones that can get me something!

      • If that’s how you see life without a deity, for the sake of civil order and safety you should most definitely remain a theist!

      • And here’s where the discussion almost universally breaks down with the atheist! Rather than explaining how a rape and pillage meaning can be wrong in a universe where I give my life the meaning of my choice, the ad-hominem comes out. Attack the argument rather than my character should I choose to exploit people and natural resources to gain as much happiness as possible. Show me how any particular individual “meaning” can be wrong. Which premise do you dispute such that #4 does not follow?

        1) Individuals give themselves meaning.
        2) Individual meanings cannot be judged wrong.
        3) I am an individual
        4) Therefore, the meaning I give myself cannot be wrong.

        My guess is you’d dispute #2, but then all of a sudden you’re going to have to appeal to something outside of yourself (society?) to affirm or deny which “meanings” are valid, and which are not.

        Only if there is some universal sense of obligation that applies outside of individuals or societies, do you have any grounds whatsoever to attack the (theoretical) “rape and pillage my way to happiness” brand of meaning.

      • I just think it’s absurd for me to sit here and explain why rape and pillage would be undesirable actions in a godless universe and thus my pithy reply. That’s where arguments with theists break down. They ask you “why shouldn’t I rape and kill” if I’m not beholden to some celestial dictatorship?

        I assume you don’t rape and pillage. If not, why not? I’m sure “because my deity says it’s wrong” is way down the list, at least I hope it would be.

        I’ll concede the point that in godless universe, there appears to be no ultimate meaning. And while I may not necessarily be happy about that, the universe is the way it is whether we like it or not. Just because there is no ultimate meaning, that does not mean that our lives and the lives of others don’t have tremendous meaning, for us, the lives of our descendants, and in this moment.

      • Unfortunately your outrage at the question doesn’t do anything to offer a defense of your position.

        It’s not because my Deity “says it’s wrong”, it’s because my Deity created an ordered universe where good, bad, and meaning are infused into the universe, including you and I. This, on my view, is why you can’t help but argue for them, even though you have nothing to base such concepts on in your framework.

        In the reality I observe, it seems clear that there are just some things that are wrong, regardless of time, place, or person. Naturalism has little explanatory power to offer in explanation of such a reality, and so I look elsewhere.

        You must think seriously on this. If there is no *ultimate* meaning, then there is no reason that anybody is obliged to care about anything, or objectively condemn any particular action or lifestyle. This includes…wait for it…Hitler. I know you think it’s absurd to have to defend why Hitler’s actions were wrong, but in order to truly condemn them with more than just personal or societal preferences, such a defense is required.

        Regardless of how uncomfortable it is, unless you can point out the problem with my syllogism, my position that a godless universe can shove it is quite reasonable. You and I both clearly know this to be absurd, and that we ought to take care of each other and be good stewards of our planet, but only one of us can explain why.

        I want you to be able to explain why.

  3. Since there is no good evidence that ultimate meaning exists, or an ultimate meaning-giver exists, we are left to make our own meaning and purpose in this life.

    • What constitutes “good” evidence is the crux of the problem I suppose, since I would say the absurdity of life without ultimate meaning or an ultimate-meaning giver *is*, in part, good circumstantial evidence. We make daily decisions and run our justice system based on much weaker evidence.

      If I’m wrong, and I’m deluding myself, at least I’m in good company, because you’re also deluding yourself if you think you’re somehow making meaning or purpose yourself. If I’m right, meaning and purpose exist as a real feature of reality. If you’re right, we’re *both* master illusionists! 😉

      • Yeah I think you hit the nail on the head. It’s difficult to come to any common ground in these matters when you disagree on what constitutes good evidence (or any evidence for that matter). We do disagree on this point, that is for certain.

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