Saturday, September 22, 2007

Inference to the Best Explanation (Part VI)

This is the sixth installment in the series which seeks to argue that belief in God is more reasonable, more compatible with our experience of the world and of ourselves, than is atheism. We consider here three more observations about our human condition that support this conclusion.

13. Human beings have a deep longing for justice, a longing for which there's no fulfillment if death is the end of our existence. We yearn to see good rewarded and evil punished. Our hearts break when evil appears to triumph over good, but it's the common human experience that many good people live lives filled with terrible fear, pain and grief, and then they die. Meanwhile, many who were the cause of that suffering come to the end of their lives peacefully and content after many years of pleasure. In a world without God everybody comes to the same end, everyone vanishes, and there's no reward or punishment, just nothingness. In the world of the atheist, it doesn't matter whether you're Mother Teresa or Adolf Hitler and there's no hope that justice will ever be done.

14. Human beings crave a meaning to our existence. We can't bear living a life we know to be pointless and insignificant, but death nullifies everything and renders it all nugatory. In the absence of God there's no fixed purpose or value to anything we do. Some day the earth will burn up in a solar explosion, and there'll be not a trace that humans once existed. What will all of our striving matter then? All our efforts are like the furious running of a gerbil in his wheel. Our lives are just a footprint in the sand at the edge of a space-time surf. Eventually all vestige of our lives will be washed away as though we were never here, and the greatest acts of heroism, charity, and scientific discovery will mean absolutely nothing.

If the atheist is correct, if our existence is simply a temporary fluke of nature, a cosmic accident, then we have no reason to think that anything we do matters at all. If, on the other hand, we have been created by God we may assume that He had some purpose for making us. We may not know what that purpose is, but we have a basis for hoping that there is one. Indeed, if there is a God then what we do is not ephemeral, it's eternal, and that makes all the difference.

15. In a Godless world there is no soul and therefore no self other than the physical body. Since our body is in constant flux we are continuously creating a new self, moment by moment, year by year. There is nothing which perdures through time which makes me the same person I think I was ten years ago. There is no permanent "I," only a kaleidoscopic, fragmented bundle of patterns, impressions, memories, none of which has any real significance in determining who we really are.

As T.S. Eliot put it, "What we know of other people is only our memory of the moments during which we knew them. And they have changed since every meeting we are meeting a stranger." Our sense that we are a self strongly suggests, however, that there's more to us than just our physical being. Yet unless there is a God the physical is all there is.

Go here and follow the links to find previous posts in this series.


Science Literacy

We talked about this rather humorous and startling video some time ago, but it's worth bringing back. Fifty six percent of French people polled on this game show said that the sun revolved around the earth. Now France, of course, is a very secular nation in which evolution is taught in school and over 80% of the people believe it to be scientific fact. Yet a majority of the viewers of this show hold a pre-Copernican belief about the solar system.

The next time you hear someone trot out the old canard that if we allow evolution to be challenged in our schools it'll be the death of science literacy, point them to this video as anecdotal evidence that evolutionary belief and science literacy have very little to do with each other.


Near Miss IED

Here's video, taken by military personnel, of an uncomfortably close near-miss of an IED. It's pretty sobering. Viewpoint understands, but does not endorse, the soldier's verbal reflex.