Do freethinkers have any meaning in life? Though Dan Barker is accurate to an extent, he side-steps the ‘Big Question’ when he answers this question by saying; “Freethinkers know that meaning must originate in a mind. Since the universe is mindless and the cosmos does not care, you must care, if you wish to have purpose. Individuals are free to choose, within the limits of humanistic morality. “Some freethinkers find meaning in human compassion, social progress, the beauty of humanity (art, music, literature), personal happiness, pleasure, joy, love, and the advancement of knowledge”
It is true that the stars and planets, asteroids and nebulae, have no consciousness and therefore care not a whit what happens on or to our little blue marble. That however, does not mean there is no greater meaning in life. The things lists as ‘Freethinker Meaning of Life’ ar nothing more than hobbies, interests, or personal goals at the most. His very short treatment of the ‘meaning of life’ for ‘freethinkers’ contains something that the most devout/dogmatic religious person would enjoy. To claim such shallow items as a purpose for existence is ridiculous at best.
The phrase ‘Meaning of Life’ implies a universality that is absent in any laundry list of hobbies and interests. The ‘I Likes’ you put on a dating profile are as variable as each unique individual completing the form. The passions and interests, the tastes and dislikes for each person are not interchangeable between individuals or even the same person at different ages. Each person’s tastes or passions are malleable because our priorities and goals change with the accumulation of experiences and years. The clubbing or mountaineering one lived for in their youth becomes an impossibility once children enter their lives and/or age and arthritis have sapped their vitality.
The “Meaning of Life Question” has been approached in every civilization by everyone from peasants to princes. Dan’s answers are shallow and weak in comparison to even the Atheistic Buddhism approved by Communist China. True Zen Buddhism, Taoism, Shintoism, Judaism, Christianity and even the polytheists/ascetics of early Western cultures are all far deeper than the Communist version because they consider the relationship of each human, not only with each other and the world, but also with the cosmos/divine.
Regardless of how ‘freethinkers’ feel about psychotherapy and its origins, the atheistic pioneer of the field, Sigmund Freud said it bluntly: “… only religion can answer the question of the purpose of life. One can hardly be wrong in concluding that the idea of life having a purpose [at all] stands and falls with the religious system” (Civilization and Its Discontents, 1930).
The value society places on human life is born from the near-universal religious idea that human life is valuable or sacred. The rules of polite society are likewise born from religious morals. The loss or banning of religion from society has frequently been shown to produce enormous loss of life (for the good of society/collective) or relativistic permissibility that allows the individual to do almost anything they find ‘fulfilling’.
Dan claims the complexity of life does not require a designer. He states that the explanation for the complexity of biological life is Darwin’s theory of evolution because cumulative nonrandom natural selection “designing” for billions of years, has provided the explanation.
Even granting the possibility that random mutations (99.99999….% of which are lethal or deleterious) are the source of all species of plant or animal on the planed from a single, common, one-celled ancestor, there is still the issue of a living organism somehow (defying the laws of everything from entropy to biology) arising spontaneously from non-living matter.
Genetic drift within species and the results of selective breeding are incontrovertible. Even with guided experiments to prove bacterial evolution running for decades, there has never been a documented case of bacteria giving rise to anything but bacteria of the same species. It may be with slightly different traits that may lead to a different strain or subspecies, but it is still the same type of bacteria. Never has it been documented that even a single celled species gave rise to any other single-celled species, let alone a multi-celled creature. Human-guided selective breeding (compressing millions of years of natural selection into a few decades) has produced over a hundred breeds of dogs that theoretically came from a common wolf-like ancestor. The offspring of all this selection are still all distinctly canines, though the argument could be made that a teacup poodle is a different species than a great dane, just as the zebra and horse are. Even so, those species are still in the same genus.
If, as Dan Barker claims, the ‘Freethinker’ relies on their intellect to form opinions about subjects on the basis of reason, independently of tradition, authority, or established belief, why does he not dismiss the theory of evolution, with the massive need for faith (in Darwin’s theory and those of all of his scientific descendants) required to not dismiss the seemingly outlandish theories involved?
The materialistic/naturalistic claim that random molecular reactions somehow produced a living cell that somehow became all life on earth through random recombination of genetic material (thinned by natural selection) requires tremendous faith (odds against this are on the order of an untrained monkey typing out a Shakespeare play with zero errors when placed in front of a typewriter on the first try). Why are there no skeptical treatments or demands for logical or material proof of some sort to support the theory? There is more substantial documentation for the theory of Race Realism than there is for random mutation transforming aquatic algae into ferns; ferns into broadleaved flowering plants that themselves were transformed into everything from a violet to 100-foot-tall tropical trees. Then continued by converting broad-leafed plants into grass and needle-leafed conifers (ranging from alpine bristlecone pines to giant redwoods) and cacti with their leaves converted into spines.
Why do skeptics, rationalists and freethinkers accept evolution without question and overlook the issues surrounding primal aquatic animals somehow arising out of algae? Why is there no question surrounding the notion of fish and mollusk species with distinct physical attributes changing into another creature with traits that are distinctly different from the original, with no evidence of transitional or divergent phases? Why do these rationalist groups embrace the notion that, after millions of years of adaptation to the aquatic environment, animals somehow converted themselves to life on land, which would require massive physiological and structural changes? Then there are the ages of reptiles, followed by dinosaurs in their many forms, then tiny, mouse-like mammals arising suddenly out of non-mammals, the megafauna in the ice ages and those species changing into what we now see.
Rational thought indicates that the massive changes to chromosome numbers, sequences and length to produce the wildly divergent flora and fauna in the fossil record, even over the massive lengths of time involved require some form of guidance.
Yet Dan claims that a “Divine Designer” is not the answer because the complexity of such a creature would be subject to the same scrutiny itself, basing his argument in the notion that a creator must be of equal or greater complexity than the creation. To support this attitude, he states that, ‘Even a child knows to ask: “If God made everything, then who made God?”’; thereby treating God like a material creature, bound by the same laws that govern the universe.
What atheists fail to consider is the builder of any construct cannot originate from inside the construct. Space and time, matter and energy originated from the Big Bang. The creator, by definition, must then exist outside of space and time as we perceive those concepts. Just as a builder can enter and modify or customize a structure, or a person can customize their ‘simworld’ to their liking, the creator can enter and modify the universe.
What we call ‘God’ is a perfect, all-seeing, all-knowing, all loving consciousness that created the universe and keeps it running. Just as any picture can be zoomed in to the extent that it breaks down into pixels, matter breaks down into quantum particles. All matter is made of quantum particles that do not exist except as a mathematical probability unless they are observed. What could have been observing those particles, keeping them in physical form so they could combine into physical sub-atomic particles and maintain them in that state for 13.8 billion years?
Because of quantum particle behavior, Elon Musk (hardly a conspiracy nut or fundamentalist Christian) has launched a project to determine whether the universe is a computer simulation, with the Computer providing the constant observation needed to maintain physicality. The far simpler answer, with the fewest steps, is that this universe is a creation of and exists within the infinite mind of the very being of existence. The observation to maintain quantum particles is provided by God, not some supercomputer AI.