Monday, 28 September 2015

The Absence of Meaning, and Penguins

Sometimes, when discussing my world view with a theist, they will (metaphorically) look at me with a quizzical expression and say "But in your world view, everything is meaningless!"

Then they might say "I can't believe in a universe without meaning."  And that, for them, is it.

This is a curious point of view.  Perhaps the universe does have some sort of inherent meaning that isn't generated by us humans.  But perhaps not.  Our wanting the universe to have intrinsic meaning doesn't affect the nature of the universe one wit ... and the meaning seems to be pretty light on the ground, even if one posits a god.

I see this as being rather similar to me showing them photos from my visit to Arizona and the Grand Canyon.  With each image, my theist friend says "Nice, but there's no penguins, so I don't believe that you went to Arizona."  I didn't actually expect to see penguins in Arizona and similarly I don't expect to see meaning in the universe, so the singular lack of it in my world view simply isn't a problem.

The discussions between theists and non-theists are, therefore, a bit like we're on a bus on our way somewhere, but we can't agree as to the destination.  The windows of bus, for some obscure reason, are entirely coated on the inside with paint.  The non-theists are suggesting that we might be on our way to the Grand Canyon, on the basis that some of the more scientific among them have been scraping off bits of paint in order to see outside and all the evidence, so far, points to the destination being the Grand Canyon. The theists, on the other hand, are refusing to accept any evidence that suggests that we are not going to Percival's Penguin Paradise (but if any evidence might be compatible with that notion, they seize upon it very quickly).  In fact, any evidence provided that indicates a lack of penguins is summarily rejected as "not containing evidence of penguins".

You might think that it is going to be a very sad holiday that we are going on with no penguins at the end of it, but personally I think it's not so much the destination that is the problem, but more that I am stuck on a bus with far too many theists, some of whom are hellbent on preventing me from scraping off enough paint to see the reality outside.

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