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Love and the Skeptic

LoveSkeptic

"The greatest of these," wrote the Apostle Paul, "is love" (1 Cor. 13:13). Many centuries later, in a culture quite foreign to the Apostle to the Gentiles, the singer John Lennon earnestly insisted, "All we need is love."

Different men, different intents, different contexts. Even different types of "love." You hardly need to subscribe to People magazine or to frequent the cinema to know that love is the singularly insistent subject of movies, songs, novels, television dramas, sitcoms, and talk shows—the nearly monolithic entity known as "pop culture." We are obsessed with love. Or "love." With or without quotation marks, it’s obvious that this thing called love occupies the minds, hearts, emotions, lives, and wallets of homo sapiens.

Yet two questions are rarely asked, considered, contemplated: Why love? And, what is love? These aren’t just good questions for philosophical discussions—these are important, powerful questions that all Catholics and atheists should consider.

What Is This Thing Called Love?

One man who spent much time and thought considering the why and how of love was St. John Paul II. "Man cannot live without love," he wrote in Redemptor Hominis, his first encyclical. "He remains a being that is incomprehensible for himself, his life is senseless, if love is not revealed to him, if he does not encounter love, if he does not experience it and make it his own, if he does not participate intimately in it" (10).

That is a statement both St. Paul and John Lennon could agree with, for it states something that is evident to the thoughtful person, whether Christian or otherwise: I need love. I want to love. I am made for love.

But what is love? Many profound works have considered this question at great length and with intense detail. They have plumbed the depths of the various types of love—familial, sexual, and agape. I’ll start with the basic brushstrokes of a definition of love between humans.

The Thomist Josef Pieper, in his essential book On Love, wrote that this love is personal, active, and evaluating. It gauges what is beautiful, right, and—especially—good, and affirms that it is such. "Love," Pieper states, in articulating a philosophical understanding, "is therefore a mode of willing. … To confirm and affirm something already accomplished—that is precisely what is meant by ‘to love’" (On Love II).

How Wonderful That You Exist!

But what is willed by loving? When we say to another: "It is good that you exist, that you are!"—what do we mean? The question is not nearly as abstract or obtuse as it might sound, for it does serious damage to the flippant claim that man is able to "make a meaning," for love is not about making something ex nihilo, but the recognition and affirmation of what already is. Or, put another way, in seeing the good of another, we choose to embrace and treasure that good.

So Pieper makes an essential distinction: "For what the lover gazing upon his beloved says and means is not: How good that you are so (so clever, useful, capable, skillful), but: It’s good that you are; how wonderful that you exist!" (On Love II). This seemingly simple point has profound ramifications, for it is an affirmation of what is. It involves the recognition that something outside of myself is objectively good and worthy of my love. Because reality is knowable and has objective meaning—not shifting, subjective "meaning"—love is possible and can be known. This, of course, raises the question: Where does the objective meaning of love ultimately originate from if not from myself? It is a question sometimes ignored by skeptics, but worth asking of both those who deny God’s existence and those who reject the existence of objective truth: "If your love for your spouse or family is subjective and of a ‘here today, gone tomorrow’ sort, what meaningful, lasting value does it really have?"

The true lover, Pieper argues, intuitively understands, even if not with precise logic, that an affirmation of the beloved’s goodness "would be pointless, were not some other force akin to creation involved—and, moreover, a force not merely preceding his own love but one that is still at work and that he himself, the loving person, participates in and helps along by loving" (On Love II).

Human love, therefore, is an imitation, a reflection, of the divine love that created all that is, including each of us. In the words of Pope Benedict XVI, in Deus Caritas Est, "there is a certain relationship between love and the Divine: love promises infinity, eternity—a reality far greater and totally other than our everyday existence" (5). Even Sartre, who is not known for being happy about much of anything, remarked in Being and Nothingness, "This is the basis for the joy of love . . .; we feel that our existence is justified" (3.I).

Grateful to No One in Particular

It is here that Pieper makes a significant connection, proffering (as even Sartre’s remark suggests) that all love must contain some element of gratitude. "But gratitude is a reply," he argues, "it is knowing that one has been referred to something prior, in this case to a larger frame of universal reference that supersedes the realm of immediate empirical knowledge" (On Love II).

This is noteworthy because there are atheists and skeptics who insist that it is perfectly logical, even laudable, to be grateful. Recently, The Philosopher’s Magazine ran a piece titled, "Thank Who Very Much?", written by Ronald Aronson, Distinguished Professor of Humanities at Wayne State University. It opened with a rather honest and blunt assessment of the situation faced by atheists and agnostics:

"Living without God today means facing life and death as no generation before us has done. It entails giving meaning to our lives not only in the absence of a supreme being, but now without the forces and trends that gave hope to the past several generations of secularists. . . . By the beginning of the twenty-first century, the modern faith that human life is heading in a positive direction has been undone, giving way to the earlier religious faith it replaced, or to no faith at all."

So, what to do? Aronson maintains a stiff upper lip, exhorting his fellow unbelievers to "shape a satisfying way of living in relation to what we can know and what we cannot know" and so forth. Noting that Christianity and Judaism tend to be filled with gratitude since they believe in a personal God, he offers a rather startling suggestion, worth considering at length:

"But there is an alternative to thanking God on the one hand and seeing the universe as a 'cosmic lottery' or as absurd on the other. An alternative to being grateful to a deity or to ignoring such feelings altogether.
 
Think of the sun’s warmth. After all, the sun is one of those forces that make possible the natural world, plant life, indeed our very existence. It may not mean anything to us personally, but the warmth on our face means, tells us, and gives us a great deal. All of life on Earth has evolved in relation to this source of heat and light, we human beings included. We are because of, and in our own millennial adaptation to, the sun and other fundamental forces.
 
My moment of gratitude was far more than a moment’s pleasure. It is a way of acknowledging one of our most intimate if impersonal relationships, with the cosmic and natural forces that make us possible."

Why Does It All Exist?

We can be grateful, I suppose, for Aronson’s suggestion but still find it unconvincing. His notion of an "intimate if impersonal relationship" is, at best, paradoxical, and at worst, illogical. It is an attempt to assign meaning to something (creation) whose value has already been denied (since the world and our lives are the accidental offspring of molecular chaos). If I understand his proposition correctly, man should extend personal, relational reaction in response to a reality that is not only impersonal, but possessing no personal basis or value. And then we are stop there, without contemplating, "Where did all of this come from? Why does it even exist?"

Aronson recognizes this problem and appeals not only to "our gratitude to larger and impersonal forces," but to man’s dependence "on the cosmos, the sun, nature, past generations of people, and human society." Which still does not explain why the cosmos, the sun, and nature exist, or why they exist so as to sustain human life. Strip away the sincere intentions and we are still left with a simple fact: It’s not enough. The vast majority of people down through time have never found it enough to extend an intimate and personal note of gratitude to impersonal, biological forces that do not care about us or love us. Responding in gratitude to the sun, the fallow earth, the dewy meadow, the complexity of DNA is either sentimental neo-paganism or points to man’s natural knowledge that Someone must be responsible for those lovely—and love-revealing—realities. Skeptics should be led to ask themselves: "Are you grateful to be alive? If so, does it make sense to be grateful to immaterial forces and objects that don’t care at all about your existence?"

The novelist and essayist Walker Percy, a former atheist who believed in his youth that science would provide the answers to all questions and problems, impatiently dismissed the "grateful, but to no one" position in his rollicking self-interview, "Questions They Never Asked Me":

"This life is much too much trouble, far too strange, to arrive at the end of it and then be asked what you make of it and have to answer, 'Scientific humanism.' That won’t do. A poor show. Life is a mystery, love is a delight. Therefore I take it as axiomatic that one should settle for nothing less than the infinite mystery and the infinite delight; i.e., God. In fact, I demand it. I refuse to settle for anything else."

Aronson, like many skeptics, puts on a brave face, but ultimately settles for too little. His philosophical approach is merely a more sophisticated version of the crude belief: Create your own meaning. Yes, he essentially says, I readily admit that the universe is diverse and full of unbelievable phenomena, but at the end of the day I conclude it still has no meaning other than that which I give it. Ironically, it is the skeptic who takes an illogical leap of faith. Fortunately—or rather, providentially—faith does not have to be the enemy of reason, as long as it is faith in the right Person.

Love Is of God

The most convincing explanation for human love is divine love. As Benedict explains so well in Deus Caritas Est, Christianity carefully distinguishes between divine love and human love, but also recognizes that the latter results from the former. On one hand, man cannot know and grasp the theological virtue of love by his natural powers. Yet by his nature man is drawn toward God even through human love—especially through human love. And it is the Christian story—the Christ story—that makes sense of man’s hunger to love and to be loved. The great surprise is that God’s love is most fully revealed in the death of the God-man, Jesus Christ, on a cross, which was the culmination of the great scandal of the Incarnation and was validated by the great mystery of the Resurrection.

"In the mystery of the Cross love is at work," wrote Pope John Paul II in Dominum et Vivificantem, "that love which brings man back again to share in the life that is in God himself" (41). This love allows man to participate in the life of the Triune God, who is love (1 John 4:16). The perfect love in and of the Trinity is the source of love and the home of love. The Son’s redemptive work of love unites us to himself, the Holy Spirit perfects our will in love and makes us more like the Son, and both guide man toward the loving heavenly Father. Such is the path of divine life and love, the joy of divinization. "God himself," the Catechism summarizes, "is an eternal exchange of love, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and he has destined us to share in that exchange" (CCC 221).

"Late have I loved you, beauty so old and so new," wrote Augustine in his Confessions. As a young man he had sought love in many places, things, and people. Why? Because he knew that he was made to love and be loved. Everyone, in the deepest recesses of their hearts, has the same knowledge, no matter how scarred and distorted it might be. Some have even made love their god, failing to see that we cannot love love, nor can we worship love. Lennon sang, "All we need is love." More accurately, all we need is the One Who is Love. Now that is a lyric worth singing for a lifetime and beyond.
 
 
Originally published in This Rock Magazine. Used with permission.
(Image credit: Wikimedia)

Carl Olson

Written by

Carl E. Olson is the editor of Catholic World Report and IgnatiusInsight.com. He is the best-selling author of Will Catholics Be "Left Behind"? (Ignatius, 2003), which was selected by the Associated Press as one of the best religious titles of 2003, and co-author of The Da Vinci Hoax (Ignatius, 2004). He's also the author of Did Jesus Really Rise from the Dead? (Ignatius/Augustine Institute, 2016) and co-editor and contributor to Called To Be the Children of God: The Catholic Theology of Human Deification (Ignatius, 2016). Raised in a Fundamentalist home, Carl attended an Evangelical Bible college, and entered the Catholic Church in 1997. He holds an MTS from the University of Dallas. A well-respected author, Carl writes a weekly Scripture column, "Opening the Word" for Our Sunday Visitor, and has also written for First Things, This Rock/Catholic Answers Magazine, Envoy, Crisis, National Review Online, and National Catholic Register. Find Carl on Twitter @carleolson and visit him online at CarlEOlson.net.

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  • Doug Shaver

    The most convincing explanation for human love is divine love.

    Yes, I suppose so, if you presuppose divine love. Without that presupposition, other explanations do come to mind.

    • Phil

      Hey Doug--from a naturalist point of view, what do you think is the best explanation for a completely selfless love that only wills the good of the other? In other words, this is a love that does not have self-preservation in mind.

      • Raymond

        "Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one's life for one's friends" John 15:13
        "Love is the condition in which the happiness of another is essential to your own." Robert A. Heinlein.

        • Phil

          Thanks Raymond, you beat me to the punch! Because the next question that comes is: A true love, one that puts the other first before one's own self-preservation, is what many have pointed towards as bringing the human person true happiness (and I can attest to this).

          So from a naturalist point of view, how does the human person evolve with a desire for the pleasure of happiness where this desire is ultimately fulfilled in allowing themself to die for the good of another. What an odd trait that seems to have evolved. I am curious as to a purely naturalist description of why this is the case.

          • Raymond

            In my opinion, the human propensity to live for others is part of the social contract of civilization. Humanity cannot grow or progress without cooperation or interaction with family, friends, and strangers. In many cases, this does rise to the level of risking your life to help someone else.
            By the way, "ultimately fulfilled in allowing themselves to die for the good of another" is misleading. The willingness to risk yourself for another is all most people get, and actually risking your life for another doesn't mean you have to die. When you ask soldier's volunteer to serve, many of they say "because I love my country." Medical professionals treat people with highly contagious diseases running the risk of contracting the disease themselves. People run into burning houses pull someone out before first responders arrive. People have thrown themselves on a subway track to help someone who has fallen, even when a train is coming. Others say that these people are "heroic", but they don't think of themselves that way. They often say "I just did what anyone else would have done."
            And yes, many of these people are religious, but "No greater love has man than this..." is the furthest thing from their minds.
            So the willingness to interact in a civil, fair, and nonviolent manner does not require religious belief - it's just why we have nice things.

          • Phil

            I still don't think this really answers the question of complete
            self-donation. Why does a complete self-donation, with no view other than the true happiness of the other, lead to true happiness for oneself?

            This fact seems very paradoxical, because to give up one's life in a way that has selfish views in mind, does not lead to true happiness. This is the whole fact that to "gain life" one must "give up their life". It is only when acting in a completely unselfish manner that one finds true happiness.

          • Raymond

            "because to give up one's life in a way that has selfish views in mind" Huh?

            If you want to drill down to individual relationships, if you have a "complete self-donation, with no view other than the true happiness of the other" AND you receive the same donation from the other in return, why isn't the result true happiness?

            And back to the meta-level, the extent to which people interact with one another in a civilized, caring, cooperative manner, AND the extent to which people do NOT interact with people in a civilized, caring cooperative manner go a long way toward explaining why the world is the way it is.

            Both of those things are the same in principle, just a matter of scope and degree.

          • Phil

            because to give up one's life in a way that has selfish views in mind" Huh?

            Yes, that could be very confusing how I wrote that! I'll rephrase:

            It is possible to will someone else's good selfishly or unselfishly. To will it unselfishly is what is called "self-donation" or actual love. It is this latter phenomenon that I am most interested in, because it is what brings about the greatest human joy and peace.

            If you want to drill down to individual relationships, if you have a "complete self-donation, with no view other than the true happiness of the other" AND you receive the same donation from the other in return, why isn't the result true happiness?

            True love is possible when that self-donation is not reciprocated, but one gives of themself unselfishly anyway.

          • Raymond

            "True love is possible when that self-donation is not reciprocated, but one gives of themself unselfishly anyway."

            I can accept that. Is your question then how can THAT lead to true happiness? I guess we've gone a long way down this path without really defining "true happiness". I suspect that somewhere in your arguments lies "true happiness is not possible without God". But that implies that true happiness is something that can only happen supernaturally, and I don't accept that.I'll have to give some thought to what I think true happiness is.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Do you think true happiness can be temporary? Is it "true" happiness if it can end or be taken away?

            I think there are an awful lot of kinds of temporary happiness in this life. After pursuing them for the past 60 years, I conclude they are not "true" happiness. That is not to say that those experiences were not good or very good.

          • William Davis

            Buddhism proposes that the "self" is the source of all suffering, thus unhappiness. If you think about it, every time you are unhappy, it is because things did not go as YOU expected or wanted. In fact, the self is doomed to die, so life will never go according to plan for the self, the self wants to be immortal. Investing your "self" in something (such as Edison investing himself in invention, or a Christian in Christianity) allows some of you to be immortal, and carry when you, as an individual are dust.
            I suppose self-less would have evolved as a by-product of protecting offspring and one's own tribe. There is a lot of evidence that we survived in small tribes for as much as 100,000 years. Tribes that have each other's back were destined to survive tribes that did not, though we need to retain enough of the "self" to keep other tribe members from abusing us. I've always liked this quote "selfish individuals beat altruistic individuals, but altruistic groups beat selfish groups." One of the clear strengths of Christianity is that it supports altruism as an ideal, on this I agree completely.

      • Doug Shaver

        This is a love that does not have self-preservation in mind.

        The bottom line for evolution is not about the preservation of individuals. It is about the reproduction of genes. Some individuals have to survive in order for any genes to get reproduced, so there is a strong relationship between individual survival and genetic reproduction, but it need not be a perfect relationship.

        Furthermore, evolution does not work on individuals. It works on populations -- groups of individuals with a common genetic heritage. In the case of a social species, a trait that makes some individuals sacrifice themselves will allow the population to send more of its genes into the next generation than it would if no individual behaved altruistically. Humans are a social species, and so our survival has depended on our retention of genes that code for some amount of altruistic behavior.

        Nothing about naturalism, properly understood, predicts that this process will work perfectly in every situation. Evolution is about probabilities. A trait will be favored by natural selection if it improves the likelihood that the population in which it occurs will be more fecund than it was before it acquired that trait, and in order for that happen, it need not always happen that every member of that population is more likely to survive than it was before.

        Also, the kind of altruism you ask about rarely occurs. That is why it gets so much of our attention when it does occur. A trait such as altruism can vary within any population at any given time, and it may occur in some individuals to a degree that would be unhealthy for a population in which it occurred to that degree in all individuals. Humanity could not have survived if every human being had always acted without any regard to his or her own survival.

      • Ignatius Reilly

        Preservation of the species is more important than the preservation of the individual.

        It also could have been accidental in our evolution.
        Or it could be cultural. Civic virtue and honor and all that.

        I can't tell you why selfless love exists (I am not certain that it does exist), but just because I cannot choose an explanation out of many possible explanations, does not meant that your explanation is correct.

  • Sqrat

    Responding in gratitude to the sun, the fallow earth, the dewy meadow,
    the complexity of DNA is either sentimental neo-paganism or points to man’s natural knowledge that Someone must be responsible for those lovely—and love-revealing—realities.

    It's sentimental neo-paganism.

    Skeptics should be led to ask themselves: "Are you grateful to be alive? If so, does it make sense to be grateful to immaterial forces and objects that don’t care at all about your existence?"

    I'm certainly not grateful to immaterial forces and objects. I'm happy to be alive. If I were a Catholic, logical consistency would require me to conclude that I would be even happier if I were dead.

    • Phil

      Hey Sqrat,

      You are happy to be alive, but why and how are you alive--as specifically the subjective unique you? And because of the unique you that exists, I can look to you and say that I am happy that te specific unique you does exist.

      • Sqrat

        Well, Phil, the why's of my being alive are due to a handful of people such as my parents. The how's are a matter of human biology.

        I suppose you could say that you are happy that I exist. However, since you don't know me, I doubt that it would be a true statement.

        • Phil

          Yes, biology is a part of it, but not all of what makes you you. Even if you were a part of biologically identical sextuplets that your parents had, you still would be completely unique. There has never been another you, and there will never be another you. You are a completely unique because of your individual act of subjective and personal existence. The fact that you exist at this moment is a mystery that cannot be answered from a purely naturalist point of view.

          I suppose you could say that you are happy that I exist. However, since you don't know me, I doubt that it would be a true statement.

          Actually, I am genuinely ecstastic that you exist. But it is probably not for the reasons you might expect.

          • Sqrat

            The fact that you exist at this moment is a mystery that cannot be answered from a purely naturalist point of view.

            And that, I suppose, is because the fact that I exist at this moment is in no way related to the fact that I existed five minutes ago?

          • Phil

            Actually, the fact that you would be the same subjective person 30 years from now even though every single physical part of your body is different is part of the mystery. There is a unity about you that goes beyond your past memory as well.

            And that, I suppose, is because the fact that I exist at this moment is
            in no way related to the fact that I existed five minutes ago?

            Well, then why five minutes ago? Why 10 years ago? Why at birth? Underneath all this lies the fact that you are a completely unique individual who cannot be completely reduced to biology (think about the identical sextuplets I mentioned above).

            The most that we can say from a naturalist point of view to the question of "why do you exist, as a completely unique person, at all" is simply--"Just because" or "You just exist". In other words the answer is that this is brute fact. But obviously to say this is not a real answer. We don't take any scientific question and accept "just because" as a real answer that gives us true knowledge.

          • Sqrat

            Underneath all this lies the fact that you are a completely unique individual who cannot be completely reduced to biology (think about the identical sextuplets I mentioned above).

            So this is the argument from uniqueness, therefore God? Must be Thomist. Anyhow, it's clearly where we must part company. If you have six shiny new pennies struck from the same mold, they are not so much "unique" as they are distinct. Each one is a different penny, even if you cannot tell them apart. Would you argue that the pennies are not just distinct, but unique, and that this uniqueness cannot be accounted for "from a naturalist point of view"?

            If you have monozygotic sextuplet embryos, they are likewise distinct rather than unique; no uniqueness can be imputed to them on the basis of any supposed different subjective experiences which they could not possibly yet have had. They may indeed go on to be born and become increasingly unique, in a variety of ways. Sextuplet 1 may watch, and remember, a TV show that Sextuplet 2 did not see. Sextuplet 3 may be in an accident and lose a limb that the others do not lose, and so forth. Where the supposed supernaturalistic mystery is in that, I fail to see.

          • Phil

            The key point would be that even if two people were a complete replica of each other in their physicality, memory, and experiences, we could not then hold that they are the same person.

            So this is the argument from uniqueness, therefore God?

            No, it simply points out that this fact needs a rational explanation. And in the end you will find a rational explanation cannot, in principle, come from within nature. This means we will have to look outside nature. So it would be an argument against materialism. And maybe the argument points towards God, but it surely isn't a "proof" for God.

            -----

            On unique pennies:

            The difference is that, as I think you would agree, each penny does not have any sort of unique, individual, subjective, and self-conscious inner life. This is what makes this such an important discussion. We have an "inside" view of what this inner life is.

            So you and the other 5 of the "sextuplets" each have a unique inner life that is not reducible to the biology that you all ultimately share.

            They may indeed go on to be born and become increasingly unique, in a variety of ways. Sextuplet 1 may watch, and remember, a TV show that
            Sextuplet 2 did not see. Sextuplet 3 may be in an accident and lose a limb that the others do not lose, and so forth. Where the supposed supernaturalistic mystery is in that, I fail to see.

            But also remember, you cannot be reduced purely to your memories. Say for example tomorrow you lose all your previous memories. Are you somehow a brand new person? Of course not; you are the same person just with out the memories one had the previous day. There is a unity that underlies both memory and the physically of the human person.

          • Sqrat

            But also remember, you cannot be reduced purely to your memories. Say for example tomorrow you lose all your previous memories. Are you somehow a brand new person? Of course not; you are the same person just with out the memories one had the previous day. There is a unity that underlies both memory and the physically of the human person.

            And human persons differ in that respect from pennies how, exactly? If one of six identical newly-minted pennies becomes scratched, is it the same penny, or is it a different penny? If it is the same penny, does that mean that pennies are not purely material objects?

            Granted, unlike pennies, I do indeed have a self-conscious inner life (much of the time, anyhow). However, I assert as virtually self-evident that my ability to have such a life is
            entirely and absolutely dependent on my biology -- such that, for example, I can't have an "inner life" in London while my "biology" is in New York.

          • Phil

            I kinda alluded to this above, but let us use this thought experiment:

            Let's say there is an exact copy of this entire universe--which means there are exactly two of you as well. So you have an exact complete twin person living in an exact same world--completely the same in physical makeup, memories, and experiences.

            As you reflect, even though this person is the same exact as you, you could never say that this person is actually the same exact person as you. As you reflect you say, "No I am a unique person, and even my hypothetical complete twin would be unique." There is both something bodily and spiritually that makes you different from your twin. There is an internal unity of consciousness, that doesn't reduce to biology, memories, or experiences.

            Even these two hypothetical people that live the same exact life in the same exact universe would be two unique subjective personal existences.

          • Sqrat

            Phil, you seem confused about the meaning of the word "unique". If you have two things, even two people, that are exactly alike, they are not unique. In fact, insofar as they are merely similar, not identical, they are not unique. So in fact, my hypothetical complete twin is not unique, precisely because he's my complete twin.

            As an aside regarding your thought experiment,
            the physicist Max Tegmark says that there is indeed an exact copy of our "Hubble volume" (i.e. an exact copy of our region of the universe) elsewhere in the universe, which would indeed contain someone identical to you, and someone identical to me. Indeed, according to Tegmark, you and I have an infinite number of such identical twins, since an infinite universe would contain an infinite number of identical Hubble volumes.

          • Phil

            I think what you are trying to propose is that the same exact material make-up can, and does, lead to completely unique persons? If this is in fact the case, we have to propose that there is something beyond the mere physical that accounts for the complete uniqueness of each person's existence.

            The thought experiment, and your paragraph about infinite "you's", was trying to point towards the fact that even if your complete physical body, memory, and experiences were the exact same, there would still be unique act of consciousness. This unique act of consciousness would make your completely unique from the indentical twin. And since everything that would possibly be the same physical is so, we have to propose another solution. Would you hold that there would be no unique act of consciousness between these two identical twins I we proposed above?

            In regards to your second paragraph--I think you would hold that there is something completely unique about "you" as compared to the infinite other copies of you?

          • Sqrat

            In regards to your second paragraph--I think you would hold that there is something completely unique about "you" as compared to the infinite other copies of you?

            Uh, no, by virtue of the meaning of the word "unique."

            Two things that are absolutely indistinguishable are not unique, they are identical -- though they remain two things.

          • Phil

            Two things that are absolutely indistinguishable are not unique, they are identical -- though they remain two things.

            If they "remain two things", then you have already distinguished between them; they are not "indistinguishable".

          • Sqrat

            Look, this ain't rocket surgery, Phil. If you see two pennies that you can't tell apart, are you really baffled as to how there could be two pennies when you can't tell 'em apart? So baffled that you conclude that there must really only be one penny?

          • Phil

            I completely agree with you about pennies. The issue is we aren't talking about pennies. We are talking about self-conscious living beings. The penny analogy only goes so far, because as we agreed above, pennies have no consciousness. We must look at this from the "inside out".

            The point we need to be focusing on is that your physicality, your memory, and your experiences do not account for your unique act of consciousness. This unique "act of consciousness" is something over and beyond these three things.

          • Sqrat

            If my infinite number of identical twins in infinite other Hubble volumes in our universe all have "acts of consciousness" that are identical to mine, then those acts of consciousness are not unique, by definition of the word "unique". If there are an infinite number of Phil's out there all thinking exactly the same thoughts, why on earth would you say that those thoughts are "unique"?

          • Phil

            Another way to put this is; if your physicality, memory, and experiences do account completely for your unique conscious existence, then you and those infinite other copies of yourself are really both one and infinite consciousness' at the same time. This leads to you being both one person and many persons at the same time. A nice contradiction.

            But we must realize that, no, you are you, and you are not the infinite other copies of yourself.

            If there are an infinite number of Phil's out there all thinking exactly the same thoughts, why on earth would you say that those thoughts are "unique"?

            Because I am objectively not those other Phil's. They are thinking the same exact thoughts as me, but they are not me. In fact everything about them is the same, but they are not me.

          • Sqrat

            To assert that my "conscious existence" is "unique" if there are an infinite number of indistnguishable copies of me experiencing indistinguishable "conscious existences" is simply begging the question, Phil.

          • Phil

            But we can both say (about infinite Phil's or Sqrat's)--"As a matter of fact, I know that these infinite Phil's are not me, because I am me, and not them!"

          • Sqrat

            Sure, just as we can say that, as a matter of fact, THIS penny is not THAT penny, even though they appear to be absolutely identical.

          • Phil

            Yes, and if the pennies were self-conscious then they would be able to say to themself "Even though I am exactly the same in every way and thought to that other penny, I am not that other penny".

          • Sqrat

            I happen to believe that pennies are not capable of consciousness because they lack the material prerequisite -- that is, a highly developed brain, or anything resembling one.

            Would it be fair to say that you, on the other hand, see no reason why pennies in principle could not be self-aware and talk to themselves?

          • Mike

            To him you are not Phil you are just a machine a blob of atoms that calls itself Phil bc some other blob of atoms called you Phil and the fact that you think you have some "interior life"/conciousness/ability to abstract ideas is only an illusion foisted on you by your genes or the molecules in your body; this problem of the qualia that you keep referring to is an illusion some kind of bad trip - you are no different essentially than a piece of copper we "call" a penny - you are a piece of carbon we "call" phil.

            ;)

          • Phil

            Ahh, so that's why we can kill babies like they don't matter!

          • Mike

            If atheism is true, you'll just disappear when you die - it'll be like before you can remember anything; so why worry about what is and what is not right or wrong - that's just another annoying illusion foisted on you by matter, the carbon in your body and the "laws of physics" which by the way were not written by a law maker or giver but "just are".

          • Do you want atheists here or not, Mike? I don't feel welcome when you disrespect and misrepresent atheism.

          • Mike

            I am not misrepresenting atheism it insists that there is no evidence that there is an afterlife and indeed denies the possibility.

            Yes! i want atheists but engagement and some charity not snark.

          • You said above, "so why worry about what is and what is not right or wrong." Do you actually think atheists don't care about anything?

            If you have evidence for an afterlife, please present it. I do not deny the possibility of one, I just see no reason why I should believe in one.

          • Mike

            Atheism can not by definition "care" let alone care about something ephemeral as "right/wrong"...maybe you believe in an atheism that is somehow special i don't know.

          • I'll ask again, do you think atheists don't care about anything? Remember, I'm a person--atheism only captures a small sliver of who I am.

            I guess you don't have evidence for an afterlife, then.

          • Mike

            You care yes of course; you seem to care alot about something called "evidence" something called "truth", something called "justice" something called "proof/good/evil/right/wrong" ALL of which you care about bc you are MORE THAN just matter and energy all of which CAN NOT be ACCOUNTED for via materialism, naturalism, physicalism, all of which demands something immaterial, transcendent, something more, something with purpose, intent etc. ALL of which can be accounted for via classical christian theism.

            I don't have any evidence for an afterlife except what even Aristotle reasoned about the immateriality of the intellect and of course the resurrection which i believe happened and that all human beings seem to have something built into them that desires/demands/ thirsts for life and justice and for things to be put right and that most ppl who've ever lived have believed in some kind of afterlife, plus the "indicators" from physics that there is "more" to consciousness and on and on and on.

          • ALL of which you care about bc you are MORE THAN just matter and energy all of which CAN NOT be ACCOUNTED for via materialism, naturalism, physicalism, all of which demands something immaterial, transcendent, something more, something with purpose, intent etc.

            How do you know that naturalism cannot account for these things?

            ALL of which can be accounted for via classical christian theism.

            You say they can. There's no explanatory mechanisms in theism I'm aware of other than "God did it." I see no reason to believe that God exists.

            Maybe property or substance dualism is correct, and the mind is immaterial. Why should I believe that the mind can exist without the brain to give rise to it? It seems that most humans believed that the Earth was flat for the majority of human history. Should I take that as evidence that the Earth is flat? What physics indicators are you talking about?

            Edit: Added a few words.

          • Mike

            The intellect is immaterial the power to have abstract thoughts and volition the power to choose; the intellect needs a brain but this is getting into aristotelian thomism and classical theism.

            Naturalism, unless you have a theory of naturalism that sneaks in things that are not purely natural or if you define naturalism to include things that are not natural, by definition can result in things like animals if there is already life there it seems as it's very hard to see how inanimate matter can develop into living things but it can not have purpose on its own as you suppose it does and even if it did and this thing called "an interior life"/what philosophers call "qualia" did somehow by accident develop it would necessarily have to be accounted for as some kind of illusion a trick of the brian for whatever purpose maybe to enhance survival but certainly could not be accounted for as real as in saying things that are real about the world and that have consequence.

            Anyway it's friday night and i am on here while my wife and daughter are waiting for me to stop typing while i say "but someone on the internet is WRONG!" like a madman.

          • The intellect is immaterial the power to have abstract thoughts and volition the power to choose

            Your evidence for these claims, please. How do you know?

            Your second sentence, which is also your second paragraph, makes numerous unsubstantiated claims. Please provide evidence for each claim as well.

            One of us is likely wrong, yes.

          • Mike

            ;) you're right one of our views will turn out to be wrong...if it's mine i won't even know it...if it's yours you'll just look back on your life and say man was i ever stubborn, then Jesus will put his arm around you and say, don't feel so bad, you're not alone but i couldn't give you more direct evidence without you wanting to believe as i had to safeguard your free will, know what i mean?, to which you'll probably reply, that makes no sense! ;) good night.

          • So all of the eyewitnesses of the resurrected Jesus and all of the people who experienced miracles had their free will irreparably damaged. I volunteer to have my free will irreparably damaged if I get to know whether or not God exists.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            John Dunne asked for his free will to be taken away too, although his problem was more below the belt.

            BATTER my heart, three person'd God; for, you
            As yet but knocke, breathe, shine, and seeke to mend;
            That I may rise, and stand, o'erthrow mee,'and bend
            Your force, to breake, blowe, burn and make me new.
            I, like an usurpt towne, to'another due,
            5Labour to'admit you, but Oh, to no end,
            Reason your viceroy in mee, mee should defend,
            But is captiv'd, and proves weake or untrue.
            Yet dearely'I love you,'and would be loved faine,
            But am betroth'd unto your enemie:
            10Divorce mee,'untie, or breake that knot againe;
            Take mee to you, imprison mee, for I
            Except you'enthrall mee, never shall be free,
            Nor ever chast, except you ravish mee.

          • Wow. That's... something, haha. For the record, I'm not wanting to have my free will (assuming I have it) taken away. But when it comes to knowing whether or not the tri-omni God exists, I'm willing to give up that portion of my choice to worship it or not (assuming that's what knowing God exists would do).

            Edit: A few word changes.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I don't buy the notion that knowing for sure that God exists would harm our free will in the least.

          • Interesting. Goes against what I've been told by Christians in the past. Also makes me wonder why God chooses not to reveal itself to those who've sincerely asked. But I'm still learning about all the ways in which Catholicism differs from Protestantism (in which I was raised).

          • Kevin Aldrich

            In regard to how God reveals himself to those who ask (and even those who don't ask), there is a huge variation in how people testify that God has revealed himself to them. And there are plenty of believers who say they have never had a "revelation."

          • Interesting again. Thanks, Kevin.

          • William Davis

            No idealogy, whether it it atheism, Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism, ect. cares. Only people care. Are you supposing that atheists don't care about anything? If so, you are dead wrong. If you are talking about atheism caring, then your comment makes no sense.

          • Mike

            NO atheists CAN and DO care; they seem to care ALOT about ALOT of weird stuff imho. My only point is that ON atheism their "Caring" is a delusion...one could write a book called the "morality delusion".

          • William Davis

            Caring is an experience, which is as real as the religious experience. If what you care about doesn't exist, the caring is delusional. We all know what caring is, but words can't really express the experience of caring. The question for atheists is WHAT do they care about, in general it is probably the same things theists care about, with a few notable exceptions ;)Oddly I'm an atheist but I enjoy talking about God, including the gods of older mythologies and other religions. You could therefore say that this atheist cares about God without believing in him, therefore my caring about God is clearly a delusional form of caring ;P

          • Mike

            no i think animals can "care" like they can be sad in some sense but can they mourn i don't know; so if we're just "more advanced" animals all of our really deep deep "caring" like for esoteric "things" like social justice or "fairness" are i think a highly developed delusion meant to keep us in line if there's no God imho.

            But to me "all of this" doesn't make sense without finality without purpose etc....like the veil will be lifted when we die.

          • Marc Riehm

            It's theists who live the illusion, not atheists - because god does not exist.

            You believe your ethics to be rooted in something absolute, but they are only rooted in illusion. Better to be an atheist and say, "there is no absolute, so what is the best we can do to be good to one another?"

            The bible after all is full of all kinds of atrocity that attempts to pass as morality.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            You should talk to Luke Cooper about not making this site toxic.

          • Mike

            I am not saying reality is an illusion i am saying that if atheism is true and we really are only biological machines like lower animals or even plants then everything we perceive as "important" or "profound" things like Justice, Love, Evil, Fairness, are not unreal they are real but just real illusions that are mere prompts or ques related to reproductive fitness and having more babies and doing whatever it is that animals do which is generally just eating and having babies but as you know we humans do very very very very strange things that have nothing at all to do with making babies and so this to me points to us not being just another animal; an animal to be sure but a "spiritual" animal, an animal that appears possessed by some kind of spirit, maybe evil maybe good maybe neither but definitely possessed.

            No we only believe that ethics CAN be "figured out" like math or science that ethics are more discovered than made up...so we believe that if you argue say what determines what is "good" for a male is to fulfill his "maleness" ie his nature and if that nature is to reproduce then we reason that it is NOT good for him if he for ex. grows up to only have sexual feelings for other men. And so when we say we base our ethics on absolute foundations we mean that that conclusion applies no matter what cultural or societal changes take place so whatever "fads" come and go..if the premises are sound etc. then the conclusion applies but we know how "society" feels about that; they hate it and call us bigots.

            I've never read the entire bible but it's a very strange collection of some 50 books written over i think 1,500 to 2,000 years. BUT it is a "memoir" of sorts it tells the story of first a group of ppls relationship with this "god" and then of a person who claimed to be this god and so while being entirely "true" it is not all "facts" but it tries to use analogies, metaphors whatever was around in those days to get across a message that still resonates that "we are not alone". As for God ordering the slaughter of entire villages as the book i am told says, well i don't know as i am a catholic and not a biblical literalist i trust the church's interpretation...scoff at that if you want but if my faith depended on just what i would be able to figure out myself by reading the bible i'd have lost it in genesis 1 i think. But i agree that god as wrathful and jealous is a characterization that we in postmodern society find very very uncouth to say the least and probably for good reason as we did an awful lot of killing between 1914 and 1945!

            Look atheist are very very moral ppl, TOO MORAL in opinion; alot of them seem obsessed with right and wrong good and evil they seem to find evil everywhere which to me is so so ironic but obviously they always fail the irony in it much less the humor...like that doctor in The Plague who is an atheist says 'the goal of like is to be a saint but there is no god".

          • George

            Why indeed worry? But it is hard fact that we do worry, we do care, and so we continue. knowledge or the lack of in regards to the why will not change that.

            At this point in every one of these discussions, theists remind me of Agent Smith at the end of the Matrix movies.

            "Why Mr. Anderson? Why, why do you persist!?"

            "Because I choose to."

          • William Davis

            As far as we can tell, everyone who has died has disappeared. Jesus promised to return in the life of the Apostles (I can quote plenty of verses) and Paul clearly believed the return would be in his lifetime. Even Jesus just disappeared, and hasn't been seen for 2000 years. This failed prophecy of Jesus cannot be ignored, and all attempts to explain it away fail. I think Jesus would want us to to move on by now, but that is just my opinion ;)

          • Mike

            "want us to move on"! LOL that's good..i am not laughing at you i just think that that's really funny.

          • William Davis

            Lol, I thought it was humorous too. How often have you heard people say a dead person would "want us to move on", lol. If nothing else, we both can agree that Jesus is the most obsessed over dead man in history (resurrection or no, he still died). If we atheists are right, the concept of "move on" takes on a whole new meaning doesn't it? ;)

          • Mike

            Yeah that's funny too....yeah he's a pretty important dead dude; i mean heck we count our years based on his birth! 2015 years since...how come you folks didn't reset the clock when i was born? ;)

          • Marshall Bates

            Kinda like "why brush your teeth? You're just going to eat again! Hehe

          • Your God did it, too, Phil. What a toxic environment this site is becoming. It's making me not want to return.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I'm not seeing the toxic environment you are, but I also don't read every comment.

            Maybe one problem is that atheists tease out implications of Christianity that Christians don't want to hear and Christians do the same in regard to atheism.

            I'm not saying the implications are true--I am biased so as to have the impulse to deny any negative implications of Catholicism and I would not be surprised if individual atheists had a similar response.

          • Atheists being discussed (jokingly or not) as uncaring baby killers is toxic to me. Mike's addition of a winky-face at the end doesn't help.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I see.

            I'm glad we agree on at least part of the 5th Commandment, which from the Catholic perspective is a revealed natural precept. It did not have to be revealed by God that it is wrong to murder, but many people had and still have a hard time seeing it is gravely wrong to deprive innocent (and helpless) persons of their lives.

          • I don't think we agree on the matter of abortion. But doesn't original sin exclude the possibility of anyone being innocent? I guess that's another discussion for another day.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            CCC 405: "Original sin does not have the character of a personal fault in any of Adam’s descendants"

          • What does original sin do, then?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Here is the entire point (405):

            405 Although it is proper to each individual,295 original sin does not have the character of a personal fault in any of Adam’s descendants. It is a deprivation of original holiness and justice, but human nature has not been totally corrupted: it is wounded in the natural powers proper to it; subject to ignorance, suffering, and the dominion of death; and inclined to sin—an inclination to evil that is called “concupiscence.” Baptism, by imparting the life of Christ’s grace, erases original sin and turns a man back toward God, but the consequences for nature, weakened and inclined to evil, persist in man and summon him to spiritual battle. (2515, 1264)

            The whole thing is here for free:

            http://www.usccb.org/beliefs-and-teachings/what-we-believe/catechism/catechism-of-the-catholic-church/epub/index.cfm

          • Thanks for the info, Kevin.

          • Mike

            Fair dinkum but for the record i would never say that atheists don't care - like i keep repeating they seem to care too much - my point is that atheism in my opinion can not account for things like caring. I don't mean the winky to annoy just to lighten the mood a bit but i realize it can come off as uber annoying...well sometimes i do it to be mean but mostly it's really just to "levitate the situation" a bit.

          • Thanks for the explanation. I'm still confused here:

            "atheism in my opinion can not account for things like caring"

            Why can it not? If caring for other humans helps the survival of our species, isn't that a basic way of explaining the phenomenon of caring without invoking God?

            BTW, I think you should be more careful in choosing wording. I think you mean something like materialism / naturalism / physicalism in this instance, not atheism.

          • Mike

            I don't think i can answer it in any way you haven't already dismissed but it's alittle like saying we are only animals like chimps say but chimps don't really care about each other they're just trying to survive and so whatever makes survival less likely is just a weird quirk or some kind of error so if a chimp sacrifices itself if that doesn't increase the brood we say that that was some "silly illusion" or a "mistake" so if as i think you maintain we are only animals then how can we be said to be caring when we too are just "trying to increase reproduction" and YET humans do very very very very strange things that do not increase reproduction and if gods existed and were watching us would conclude that we are not like the other animals but seem to be possessed by something or really bad at being animals...btw it's late and i know you've heard some version of this many times before but i don't know to me it makes perfect sense...go figure.

            Yes i do mean materialism/naturalism. etc. but again i can't see how atheism is anything without those things. i mean if you say atheism is just whatever we as a society discover to be "true reality" just without any reference to any "god" then i could call myself a "christian atheist" bc to me atheism that just avoids mentioning god but doesn't challenge supernaturalism, immaterialism, etc. isn't really worth much, i mean that's not atheism that's just kind of what i was, a cultural atheist bc i was just too busy partying and making fun of republicans in college bc that's what cool ppl were doing oh and ofcourse not being "judgmental of other ppl"...i am rambling but i don't see any other way of getting this across.

            Ok here's something speculative: i think that faith is maybe a bit like quantum mechanics in how you know how they say that just by observing the experiment you affect the outcome which seems absurd as the particles should not "know" what the other is doing (it's very weird stuff which gets into probabilities etc.) well maybe faith is kind of like that that as strange as this sounds to a person like you maybe unless you "really" in your "heart of hearts" want to believe the evidence will not "appear", like when ppl say miracles only happen to ppl who believe in them; heck if the most fundamental aspects of reality may operate according to these strange principles then maybe "believing" something really "changes" reality.

            Anyway, we also all have our biases and as we're not machines (not even entirely biological machines but you may disagree with that) i don't believe that we can ever truly get past them entirely...for some reason i think that reason itself is a finger print of God yet for you because of reason you see only reason.

            Good night.

          • Krakerjak

            What a toxic environment

            The taste for sweet peas such as we find here, is an acquired one. :-)

          • Phil

            Hey Luke,

            Can you expand on your comment about this "toxic environment" you are referencing?

            I think it is important to make sure we keep this site as welcoming as possible (but short of saying that "everyone's right!), and obviously a toxic environment does not help this.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            I would say flippant remarks without punctuation or capitalization, coupled with the constant suggestion that we may go to hell is rather toxic. If somebody can't even try to use basic grammar in a combox, I question how much they actually want to engage.

            Phil, I don't think the comment was directed at you, but rather another poster.

          • Sqrat

            No, it's why you can kill babies and they're actually dead. Isn't your position that all babies are immortal?

          • Sqrat

            Snarky, Phil, snarky. That's another hundred years in Purgatory for YOU!

          • Marshall Bates

            Yay, it's not a philosophical debate until someone argues for P-Zombies

          • George

            "I think what you are trying to propose is that the same exact material make-up can, and does, lead to completely unique persons?"

            Nope. It is you who insists on using the term "completely unique".

          • Phil

            Nope. It is you who insists on using the term "completely unique".

            Yes, because I am objectively not the infinite other "Phil's" out there. Even though these Phil's have the same exact physical make-up as me, the same memory, and the same exact experiences, I can still say that I am objectively not them. I'm me, and they look and think exactly like me, but they are objectively not me.

            The fact that I can "look" at these infinite other Phils and say they are not me, shows that there is something beyond unique about me.

          • Phil

            Nope. It is you who insists on using the term "completely unique".

            I use "unique" because I am objectively not the infinite other "Phil's" out there. Even though these Phil's have the same exact physical make-up as me, the same memory, and the same exact experiences, I can still say that I am
            objectively not them. I'm me, and they look and think exactly like me, but they are objectively not me.

            The fact that I can "look" at these infinite other Phils and say they are not me, shows that there is something else at play beyond the physical brain and body I have, the memories, and the experiences, which makes me unique. This uniqueness is the "center of consciousness" that is completely unique to me and each individual infinite "Phil".

          • George

            If a different point in space is your standard, very well.

          • George

            it looks like you are just speaking for the person in your hypothetical. how do we know they would say that? How do you argue that such is the reasonable conclusion?

          • Marc Riehm

            Separate brains, separate minds. One needs dig no deeper than that.

          • George

            You're going to have to explain your last paragraph.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            Would you argue that the pennies are not just distinct, but unique, and
            that this uniqueness cannot be accounted for "from a naturalist point of
            view"?

            There is nothing in the nature of the copper or other metal that causes it to form into a penny. One might conclude that there is a "mint," an "engraver," and so on.

          • Sqrat

            Sure. The point of the mint's process is not to turn out unique pennies, it is to turn out identical pennies. Millions and millions of identical pennies.

          • Marc Riehm

            This argument is so shallow. Sextuplets - so what? They are genetically identical but biologically different. Each has his/her own brain, and therefore his/her own mind. Evolution did not (of course) magically link the consciousnesses of identical twins. There is no mystery as to the uniqueness.

          • Phil

            As alluded to before, why does the same physical brain, memories, and experiences lead to two distinct persons?

            In our thought experiment, from the outside these exactly copied twins look, and have acted, completely the same for their entire life, but from the inside each one can objectively say, "I am not that other person. There is something unique about me."

            Everything about these two "copied twins" is the same, except for the fact that, from the inside, the twin can factually say--"I am not the person over there that does, and has done, everything I will ever do."

            That, I believe, is the mystery we are dealing with here.

          • Marc Riehm

            In practice, of course, such a situation could never be achieved. If they take up different points in space within the same world, their experiences will be different. I see you over there, being bitten by that mosquito, and you see me over here, dipping my toes in the water.

            There really is no mystery here. The mind is in the brain, and the two (or six) genetically-identical siblings possess different minds.

          • Phil

            Yeah--the only way to kind of propose this happening in reality is to say that some sort of identical parallel universes actually do exist.

            So one could say that the only thing that makes me and my exact twin different is the fact that we are in a different space or "dimension". But the tension I still have is when you sit, close your eyes, and reflect for some time by sinking into yourself to that deepest part of your inner self--the part that many call the "heart" of the human person (not your physical heart of course)--there is still that voice that says, "there is something peculiarly unique about you".

            Even though "my other dimensional twin" and I are exactly identical, except for being in different dimensions; even though we are thinking and doing the same thing at every single moment, the fact that it is me--this instantiation of self-consciousness that is experiencing this rich inner life--makes each person completely unique.

            In other words, the fact that there is "someone home" when we reflect is a weird phenomenon. And in the end it is one that truly resists being reduced to mere physiological workings.

            (Hopefully my essay on the inability to logically reconcile the appearance of truth and materialism will be finished soon. I think truth is the greatest trouble for a materialist conception of the human person, and reality as a whole.)

          • Marc Riehm

            in the end it is one that truly resists being reduced to mere physiological workings

            No, this is not true. Talk to any neuroscientist. Read some Oliver Sacks. The mind is in the brain. The brain is in the body. Two people, no matter whether genetically identical or not, do not share any brain function, and therefore they do not share any mind function. Simple as that.

          • Phil

            No, this is not true.

            You say so. But if it truly is the case that you are no more than ordered matter/energy, then there is no reason for me to believe any of what you say. This is because all your beliefs are based completely upon either complex natural laws within functioning within your body, or is completely random. Neither of these give me any reason to believe that anything you say is actually true.

            The only way to avoid this predicament is to hold that the human person always comes to true beliefs. But good luck defending that premise ;)

          • Marc Riehm

            I do believe that I am "ordered matter/energy" following "complex natural laws". But it does not follow from that basis that what I say is false. Just as it does not follow that (according to you) because you have a soul, what you say is true.

            BTW just because something has a random component, does not mean that it is not following laws. Quantum mechanical systems have fundamentally probabilistic aspects to them, and yet they still obey laws.

          • Phil

            I do believe that I am "ordered matter/energy" following "complex natural laws". But it does not follow from that basis that what I say is false. Just as it does not follow that (according to you) because you have a soul, what you say is true.

            A same exact complex natural law that your belief is based upon can come to both a false and true belief with the same data, therefore there is no way for you to know if something is actually true or actually false, that you believe (as compared to only appearing to be true to you). Therefore, you and I both would have no reason to believe that anything you say, or that anyone says, is actually true.

            BTW just because something has a random component, does not mean that it is not following laws. Quantum mechanical systems have fundamentally probabilistic aspects to them, and yet they still obey laws.

            I agree, laws can include probabilities.

            But if something is actually random, nothing is ever more or less likely to happen than anything else--everything will have the same exact likelihood of happening. The probability of anything and everything that could ever happen is equal. This is obviously an issue if one wants to account for truth. Your belief that the earth is round is just as likely as your belief that the earth is a triangle.

            And if your beliefs are based upon mere probabilities, there is no way to tell me that something you believe is actually, rather than only appearing to be true to you.

            (The reason I can rationally believe that something I hold is actually true is because I don't hold that the human person's belief-making mechanisms completely reduce to complex material physiological processes.)

          • Marc Riehm

            In practice, of course, such a situation could never be achieved. If they take up different points in space within the same world, their experiences will be different. I see you over there, being bitten by that mosquito, and you see me over here, dipping my toes in the water.

            There really is no mystery here. The mind is in the brain, and the two (or six) genetically-identical siblings possess different minds.

          • William Davis

            I like to use snowflakes. As far as we can tell, every snow flake is unique, but only last for a short time. Does every snow flake have a soul?

          • Phil

            But remember, when we speak of "soul" we are speaking of the innate principle of life that makes a living being actually alive. So only living things have what we call "soul". Since a snowflake isn't a living thing, so it doesn't have "soul".

            (Of course once we show that living beings have what we call "soul", one then shows what makes the human soul so different from other living being.)

          • Marc Riehm

            There is no "mystery" that needs answering.

        • Mike

          Are carbon atoms alive or are they classified as in animate?

          • Sqrat

            Are dead people alive?

          • Mike

            So do you think that carbon has an ability to come to life when arranged in a particular "thing" called Sqrat? Doesn't this sound to you more like magic than science?

          • Sqrat

            Are dead people alive?

          • Mike

            Ok, all the best.

          • Sqrat

            Does this mean that you don't love me?

          • Mike

            ABSOLUTELY NOT! What gave you that impression?

          • Sqrat

            I don't know, you've been so -- distant lately.

          • Mike

            Oh don't be such a softy sqat ;)

          • Doug Shaver

            All atoms are inanimate. When certain atoms are combined in certain very specific ways, they form an animate object. This sort of thing happens all the time: A whole can possess a certain property that its components cannot possess individually.

          • Mike

            Is this magic? or is there something within the constituent parts some "potential" that becomes realized when combined in a "magical" way?

            How do the parts "know" to arrange themselves in such and such a way? is there some guiding principle that is in some way "moving them" towards greater complexity and ultimately "us" or is the "force" completely w/o telo/direction and we just seemed to have "popped" into existence by some strange cosmic accident?

          • Doug Shaver

            or is there something within the constituent parts some "potential" that becomes realized when combined in a "magical" way?

            I'm not an Aristotelian. I have no use for potentials or realizations.

            How do the parts "know" to arrange themselves in such and such a way?

            Knowledge is something sentient creatures have. It is irrelevant to what other entities do or don't do.

            is there some guiding principle that is in some way "moving them" towards greater complexity and ultimately "us" or is the "force" completely w/o telo/direction and we just seemed to have "popped" into existence by some strange cosmic accident?

            I think there are principles at work, but I think any talk of "guiding" is prejudicial. I also think that calling our existence an accident begs a question or two about the universe having, or being the result of, a plan.

          • Mike

            I'll be honest i find atheists simply amazing! You folks seem to me to have a fascinating view of things that is so strange so (excuse me) weird that is just to me boggles the mind! I would say all the best in your search for truth however i am not sure if you even believe anything at all about anything.

            take care.

            PS don't read into my tone, i am just honestly gobsmacked by atheists' "escape hatches" from "god".

            Seriously though thanks for engaging!

          • Doug Shaver

            Your amazement is noted.

            So is your perception that belief in God is a condition from which one might want to escape.

          • Mike

            Ok take care and all the best!

  • Kevin Aldrich

    Human love, therefore, is an imitation, a reflection, of the divine love that created all that is, including each of us.

    It seems to me that Carl Olson made a leap from our experience of human love to an assumption that there is a divine person. That has not even attempted to have been established in the OP, so if I were an atheist, I would not be moved.

    • David Nickol

      It seems to me a lot of what we get as original posts on Strange Notions is "Catholic fan fiction." Like other fan fiction, it relies heavily on the original work of others, and it assumes its readers have already immersed themselves in that now-existing fictional world, with all its axioms, assumptions, and interpretations. Generally this is not the fault of the OP's author, since posts like the above are not written for an audience of Catholics in dialogue with atheists. But I don't see the value for posts that simply assume the existence of God—and a "triune" God at that!

    • William Davis

      I agree, whatever is true, is true regardless of what we believe. So if I'm right, there is clearly a naturalistic explanation of love, be definition. If Christians are right, love could be due to a specific divine teleology, or God could have just waited for natural selection to create our specific human brand of love, notice that he likes it, and then intervened with his son and miracles. Naturalistic explanations of love could exist with or without a God. I think we both agree this is a bad argument for theism :)

      • Kevin Aldrich

        Thanks. I don't think Carl's claim quoted above is false or "a bad argument for theism"; in fact, I would argue that it is profoundly true. I am just saying that he does not establish it.

  • Kevin Aldrich

    I'd love to hear what agnostics and atheists think of the following quote.

    "Man cannot live without love. ... He remains a being that is incomprehensible for himself, his life is senseless, if love is not revealed to him, if he does not encounter love, if he does not experience it and make it his own, if he does not participate intimately in it."

    • Raymond

      OK, guys, I'll take this one.
      First, you didn't cite the quote.

      Second, I suspect you may plan to replace the word "love" in this quote with "God" to make your ultimate point. And agnostics and atheists reject the God version of this quote by definition.
      Third, if love is the willingness to lay down your life for another, or that someone else's happiness is essential to your own, you still don't necessarily have to have family, or a spouse, or a dog to have love.
      Fourth, the phrase "He remains a being that is incomprehensible for himself" doesn't make sense to me. The second part of that sentence doesn't seem to be the same thing.

      • Kevin Aldrich

        I didn't cite the source because it is pulled from the OP above. It is from an encyclical by Pope St. John Paul II.

        I'm not planning to do anything with the quote. I'm asking people to respond to it as it is.

        I personally think it is true and that no religion is needed to affirm that it is.

        • Raymond

          OK, Pope St. John Paul II. I actually responded to the same quote in another post on this thread and didn't make the connection.

          As I told Phil above, I don't think the phrase "He remains a being that is incomprehensible for himself" makes sense - the second part of that sentence doesn't seem to pertain to the first. I guess it could be a translation issue.

          And since it's from JPII, I definitely think he expects the reader to be able to substitute "God" for "love" in the passage. Many times in Catholic/Christian writing the writer starts with "God is Love. God and Love are the same thing. Therefore..."

          If that premise works for you, that's fine. But I reject the (assumed) statement that "his life is senseless, if [God] is not revealed to him, if he does not encounter [God], if he does not experience [God] and make [God] his own, if he does not participate intimately in [God].

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I'm not trying to argue with anyone here, believe it or not. Yes the Christian will eventually (properly I believe) conflate God and love. But I don't think JPII is doing that nor do I intend to.

            The quote is making the claim that love is essential to human life.

            I think the claim that that person who is not loved and/or who does not love is alienated from others and himself. I think this is why healthy families are so important, so that children get love revealed to them by the experience of being loved.

    • Certainly people can live without love. But our quality of life is diminished. More objectively stated, people who do not enter into positive relationships and feel solidarity, friendship and love with others will likely be unhappy and unfulfilled.

      It is our commitments, interactions, experiences with others that give us the most sense of fulfilment in life as well as our deepest heartache and betrayal.

      We are social beings, we naturally have an need to form these relationships and our strongest emotions are related to them. When this is positive we generally call it love, when negative hate.

    • Marc Riehm

      It is simple: no man is an island unto himself. We are social creatures. There are strong sociobiological reasons why we are tied emotionally to our kin and friends and neighbours.

      • Kevin Aldrich

        I agree that we are social beings and that this is rooted in our biology.

        But I would not say it is "simple." If we reduce love to biology we thereby reduce it to chemistry and then to physics.

        Then the greatest needs we have, which are to experience unconditional love and to give unconditional love (at least this is the Catholic view) are just programming by no one for nothing beyond the arrangement and rearrangement of waves and particles which could care less.

        My life is right back to being senseless.

        • Marc Riehm

          Absolutely true! Senseless, meaningless.

          And yet we love. And yet we enjoy life. It's enough.

          It's better to accept the lack of meaning than to construct an elaborate lie, full of holes, and try to fool oneself with it.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I think you are saying that both are elaborate lies, one a fiction created by a mindless nature and the other by deluded people.

            Only speaking from personal, subjective experience, I have lived atheism and Catholicism and have found Catholicism a much better and happier way to live and even to enjoy simple pleasures.

            I also think it is true. The last thing I want to do is to live a lie.

          • George

            I once saw someone online write that they were very, very happy as a Catholic but they could no longer be Catholic because they knew it was not true, and he eventually accepted he was an atheist.

          • Krakerjak

            Perhaps Kevin and others would benefit from viewing the following video. The universe though not malevolent is at best indifferent, insofar as we can know at this point in our evolution.
            This is not difficult to understand. To allow the possibility of the existence of something outside of naturalism that we don't know about is not to capitulate the naturalistic position. But those who insist that there is another reality on the transcendent level are entering the area of intellectual unreason and the land of woo woo....INMHO.
            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dLmY4ktOIOI

        • George

          So what?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Huh?

          • George

            Explain why I should be bothered by those implications.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I would not presume to tell you how you should feel about anything.

            I can tell you why it would bother me.

            Besides being social beings we are also rational beings. To be a rational being means we have the capacity to make sense of the world. If the world is ultimately senseless, and we find that out, we have found something pretty crappy: The meaning of life is that it is meaningless.

          • George

            but it is also meaningless that it is meaningless. a negative times a negative equals a positive, so you're all good.

        • Doug Shaver

          If we reduce love to biology we thereby reduce it to chemistry and then to physics.

          How does that devalue love? When I came to believe that love could be so reduced, it became no less important to me, no less awesome or beautiful, certainly no less powerful.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            It is important, awesome, and beautiful that waves and particles are arranging and rearranging within you?

          • Doug Shaver

            No. What is important, awesome, and beautiful is what I experience as a result of what those waves and particles are doing within me. What matters to me is the experience itself, not the particulars of what might be causing it.

  • David Nickol

    Then-Cardinal Ratzinger said something quite brilliant, I think, when writing about Original Sin:

    It must once again be stressed that no human being is closed in upon himself or herself and that no one can live of or for himself or herself alone. We receive our life not only at the moment of birth but every day from without—from others who are not ourselves but who nonetheless somehow pertain to us. Human beings have their selves not only in themselves but also outside of themselves: they live in those whom they love and in those who love them and to whom they are 'present.' Human beings are relational, and they possess their lives—themselves—only by way of relationship. I alone am not myself, but only in and with you am I myself. To be truly a human being means to be related in love, to be of and for.

    I think this is a valid insight whether from a theist or atheist point of view. From an atheist point of view, we are, firstly, social animals. But secondly, at this stage of human development, we are civilized and enculturated beings. Love in a very broad sense is is the human interaction—the interrelationship between persons—that actually creates persons. Imagine an experiment in which fertilized human eggs were each placed in an artificial womb and at the appropriate time were then placed in a totally isolated environment with no human (or even animal) contact of any kind. They would never become persons in any meaningful sense. As Cardinal Ratzinger said, human beings are relational, and so a single, isolated human being could not really exist.

    I think it is with this in mind that one should approach the human phenomenon of love. And of course it seems to me there are so many different kinds of love that it probably does not make sense to lump them all together and speak of one thing called Love.

    I think that, broadly speaking, love is the relationship that makes persons persons. It is fundamental even from an atheistic and evolutionary point of view. It is a prerequisite or concomitant of human civilization. I am not an atheist, so I do not rule out "supernatural" explanations of love, but it does not seem to me that love is inexplicable without recourse to the supernatural.

    • Kevin Aldrich

      YES.

      And anyone--theist or atheist--could learn a lot from the experience of various forms of hatred.

      • David Nickol

        And anyone--theist or atheist--could learn a lot from the experience of various forms of hatred.

        How do theists account for hatred? Where did it come from? Certainly it isn't merely the absence of love. That would be indifference.

        • Kevin Aldrich

          I don't know.

          Here are few sensible things Thomas Aquinas said about it:

          http://www.logoslibrary.org/aquinas/summa/2029.html

        • Michael Murray

          Over summer (it's been summer here) I read Jared Diamond' "The World until Yesterday" which is a survey of the features of life in various pre-agricultural societies. The way all human's lived for millions of years until "yesterday". He talks at one point about the importance of revenge in these societies. How much time people spend talking about it, thinking about it and plotting it. He contrasts this with more organised societies where we have traded the right to extract personal revenge for the right to security and social stability and how revenge is now frowned upon as a "bad" emotion.

          Revenge is not quite hatred of course but there is a close connection.

          Interesting book if your pile of "books to read" needs increasing.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Why does Diamond think pre-agricultural persons thought revenge to be so important?

          • Michael Murray

            I'm not sure he gives an opinion on that. It was just an important part of how they lived and drove a lot of violence and inter group conflict. I think he was surmising that it probably still is for all of us and that we pay a psychological price for suppressing it. Of course we gain enormously as well by not living in a world where someone might kill you walking down an alley because your grandfather short changed their grandfather on the number of pigs in a bride price. His book is interested in what we can learn from these earlier societies and I think in this case he was suggesting that we might have moved too far in the direction of isolating the legal decisions on punishment from the victims and he was in favour of recent moves to allow victim impact statements and the like.

          • Krakerjak

            Am now reading Jared Diamond's Collapse about how past societies succeeded or failed. Seems like a good read.

  • I disagree that love is a recognition that there is something outside myself that is objectively good. I'd say it is clearly a subjective experience of something outside myself that I find subjectively good. Our experience of love is inherently subjective. Why we love some, not others, we can talk about some slightly objective reasons, but ultimately it's just how we feel.

    "Where does the objective meaning of love come from? If not myself?" Suffers the same problem. It is stated here that the objective meaning of love is a gratitude of existence or some such. Not in my experience. Based on my experience of love and observations of others, what we mean by "love" is one of the most subjective concepts we know of. Second only perhaps to art. Where does it come from? It does come from me. It comes from my nature shaped by my genes and experience.

    I am happy to be alive, not really grateful. I try not to take it for granted. When I reflect on this my life feels like it has meaning.

    Because we accept that love is subjective by no means renders it a "here today gone tomorrow" kind of thing. Love is a subjective and largely non-conscious experience. I love my nephew based on my biology, my experience of him and with him, his actions and his reactions to me. The fact that these things render me to a state of love with him does not for a second mean it is fleeting. It would be very difficult for him to make me stop loving him. There are ample biological and social reasons for this and nothing objective is required.

    Some people accept that our morality, love, most of human experience is ultimately subjective. This does not render it meaningless! It is our very subjective experience and reflection upon it that IS the meaning. Not some immaterial, invisible, supernatural entity whose very existence is questionable at best.

    • Kevin Aldrich

      I disagree that love is a recognition that there is something outside myself that is objectively good.

      You mean your nephew is not good in himself independently of your subjective thoughts and feelings?

      • George

        Do you think he's good independent of God?

        • Kevin Aldrich

          It depends on what you mean by "independent of God," which is not clear to me.

      • I don't know if he is or not. I can only form subjective views on goodness. Of course this depends on the use of "objective" and "good".

        • Kevin Aldrich

          Objective means "the case regardless of what anyone says."

          Good means desirable or lovable or valuable.

          • I would not say that it is the case no matter what anyone says that he is desirable, or loveable, or valuable.

            I would say he has the same value as all other humans, which is the most anything can, I consider him lovable (he is 5)!but not desirable.

            All I can talk about is my experience of him, my feelings towards him. Such is inherently subjective.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I'm not following you. Come again?

          • Let's just leave it as I can't tell if my nephew is or is not objectively good. All I can do is determine if I think he is good. But even if he went bad in my view I would still love him. He would first need to grow up and then take such actions that destroy our relationship for me to stop loving him I expect.

            But the original point still stands. I see no indication of objectivity in anything dealing with love, quite the opposite. But this does not lessen the meaning of my experience or relationship or make it fleeting or selfish.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I'm trying to get at his ontological goodness not his moral goodness, even though I would think he probably displays a lot of innocent five-year-old moral goodness.

            His ontological goodness would be simply that he exists as a five-year old boy. If you don't think that is a good thing, don't tell his mom or she might bop you on the head.

          • I don't know what ontological goodness is, or how I could determine if a particular human has it. I don't consider anything, him, any other human or thing good just because it exists.

    • In your view love would not be meaningless but it would be selfish. You are not celebrating the goodness of your nephew but rather the the positive opinion you have of your relationship. You desire his good because it makes you feel good. You desire intimacy because because it makes you feel good. It makes love completely self-centered. That is possible. It runs counter to most people's intuition. Most people say loving someone is the exact opposite of being focused on yourself. Essentially you are asserting everything people value about love is delusional. You don't love the person but only the impact they have on your brain waves. Really loving your nephew is not that different from loving pizza. It might be less fleeting but at the end of the day it is whatever delivers positive feelings.

      Love still seems strange because we can love even when the relationship has more pain than pleasure. A child might disappoint his parents and cause them endless pain but they don't stop loving. A husband might die for his wife. If it is delusional is is quite some delusion.

      • This is a very shallow interpretation of what I've said. Yes, ultimately I think every thing I do is selfish. I've certainly recognized that I get an enormous sense of fulfilment from my relationship with my nephew. If I never got any, except pain and disappointment, I think it would be hard for me to love him. That said, what gives me fulfilment is generally taking time and resources to give him pleasure, health, security and fun. At this point I would give my life to save his. If that sounds selfish to you fine. But that is the kind of thing I mean when I talk about meaning.

        • It does not actually sound selfish. The selfishness follows logically from what you said. Why would you give up your life for his if there is no objective good in him? If it is just your mind that creates that goodness then how can it ever become more valuable than your mind? It seems your love would have to have some transcendent value for that sacrifice to make sense.

          • I would give up my life because there is subjective good for him. I think I would give up my life because my mind developed such that I value those who I love the most more than my own life. I think I would do it because I would have no quality of life if I lived and could have save him. To be truly honest I really don't know if I would do it. I think I would not hesitate to put myself in lethal danger to save him from an acute threat, but I can't really say in the abstract.

    • Marc Riehm

      Absolutely. In fact, I would say that love is BY DEFINITION subjective.

  • Krakerjak

    Perhaps Kevin,Phil, Mike and others would benefit from viewing the following video. The universe though not malevolent is at best indifferent, insofar as we can know at this point in our evolution.This is not difficult to understand. To allow the possibility of the existence of something outside of naturalism that we don't know about is not to capitulate the naturalistic position. But those who insist that there is another reality on the transcendent level are entering the area of intellectual unreason and the land of woo woo....INMHO. Fantastic little video only about 7 minutes long.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dLmY4ktOIOI

    • How can anyone, as a collection of atoms defined by the laws of physics, 'create' meaning and purpose? I am not going to take Sean Carroll's assurance of the 'good news' that I can create love and do good for someone else when that is a flat out contradiction of what he says I am.

      • George

        Does it make more sense to say a nonphysical soul can have meaning and purpose? What is so special about being more than matter (assuming such is even coherent)?

        Because its given to us by god? What makes THAT so special?

        • Coherence is exactly my point. What makes Sean Carroll so special that he can make an exception to his claim that there is nothing more than matter? We know through science that there is nothing more than matter except, you have my word, we can create purpose, meaning and love.

      • Krakerjak

        For your perusal Bob to further facilitate your understanding in the matter of meaning and purpose from the non theist point of view.
        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2tUlD8j4XE4

        • Oftentimes, theistic apologists fail to distinguish between the proximate, the necessary and the ultimate purpose of free human acts. The traditional view is that every free human act seeks good as its necessary purpose. That is another topic.

          I don’t see the point of introducing ultimate purpose here, when all I said was Carroll’s view is inconsistent. If I were to agree with Carroll that all we can know is materiality through the scientific measurement of its properties, that that is all there is, to allow him or anyone an exception would be self-contradictory.

          • Krakerjak

            I don’t see the point of introducing ultimate purpose here

            I don't feel I am introducing anything new here. We are talking about meaning and purpose in life ultimate or not, as far as human beings understand it. I am sure that Christian apologists would have no problem with seeing some sort of ultimate purpose or meaning to our existence. I don't understand your criticism of what I introduced except for your penchant to be deliberately contrarian as per the general theistic tendency. Thanks for the interesting conversation Bob.

    • Peter

      Carroll is disingenuous when he states that the universe does not care about us. This is outright misleading and sloppy. The universe depends on us, as examples of life in general and complex life in particular, to drive its evolution towards high entropy. We are indispensable to the universe because, as examples of the most complex arrangements of matter, we produce the greatest net entropy. Of course the universe cares about us in the sense that we are crucial to it.

      The question is, why is the universe so constructed that we are crucial to it, that it so carefully and methodically builds us up from scratch over aeons and slots us into our own little niche? Who or what placed it on such a strong trajectory towards high entropy that the universe had no choice but to create us?

      That our existence is inevitable is a fact, but it's not the universe we should be thanking. The universe is just a tool. We should be thanking who or whatever designed the universe to produce us. It is the designer of the universe, not the universe itself, which ultimately cares about us. This Designer cares for us so much by giving us life and existence when we have done absolutely nothing to deserve it.

      • William Davis

        All evidence suggests that the universe existed an unfathomably long time before humans appeared. The idea that we are "crucial" to the universe thus makes no sense. The universe could accidentally destroy the entire planet with an asteroid, and it would keep rolling on like nothing happened.

        • Peter

          If you reread the post, you will see that we are crucial as examples of complex matter driving the universe towards high entropy. This presupposes that we are not alone in the cosmos, just representatives, and it is as representatives of complex life that we are crucial.

          • William Davis

            You've only demonstrated that life may be inevitable. Crucial has a very different meaning, and you fail to demonstrate how we are crucial. To demonstrate that, you would first have to demonstrate that the universe has a value system, and if the universe does has a value system, why are we such a small portion of the matter in the universe that we can't even put a number on it. It would seem the universe values galaxies above all else, most of the universe seems to be dedicated to that purpose, at least when considering total material.

          • Peter

            I don't want to go off topic by going on about entropy. Planets are necessary because they contribute greater net entropy to their surroundings. Life is necessary because it contributes greater net entropy to the planets that support it. Without either the universe cannot optimise its drive towards high entropy, hence they are crucial.

          • William Davis

            Interesting. This is cutting edge physics, but we are becoming fairly certain black holes are the highest entropy objects in the universe. Slowly galaxies tend to collapse into them. If entropy is to be the calculation of "value" for the universe, life is just a bump in the road to becoming one giant black hole. The singularity at the big bang is likely to have been something like a black hole. Perhaps that is some kind of natural entropy reset when a singularity is reached? I'm only probing because I find the discipline of cosmology (entropy is clearly important to that field) fascinating. Life is unfathomable low in entropy compared to what we think a black hole contains. Earth, with all it's life, has unfathomable low entropy compared to the sun (plasma is very high entropy). You can probably tell I'm familiar with entropy, and it would make for a interesting cosmological value system ;) On that you may not be far off, I'll quote someone to back up the entropy comment:

            "Bekenstein assumed that black holes are maximum entropy objects—that they have more entropy than anything else in the same volume. In a sphere of radius R, the entropy in a relativistic gas increases as the energy increases. The only known limit is gravitational; when there is too much energy the gas collapses into a black hole. Bekenstein used this to put an upper boundon the entropy in a region of space, and the bound was proportional to the area of the region. He concluded that the black hole entropy is directly proportional to the area of the event horizon.[8]"

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Holographic_principle#Black_hole_entropy

  • Hipshot

    I have always felt myself to be an atheist more in the vein of Ingersoll

    “Love is the only bow on Life’s dark cloud. It is the morning and the evening star. It shines upon the babe, and sheds its radiance on the quiet tomb. It is the mother of art, inspirer of poet, patriot and philosopher.

    It is the air and light of every heart – builder of every home, kindler of every fire on every hearth. It was the first to dream of immortality. It fills the world with melody – for music is the voice of love.

    Love is the magician, the enchanter, that changes worthless things to Joy, and makes royal kings and queens of common clay. It is the perfume of that wondrous flower, the heart, and without that sacred passion, that divine swoon, we are less than beasts; but with it, earth is heaven, and we are gods.”

    than in the vein of the purely naturalist atheists of today.

    • He talks about love almost like it is a person. Some transcendent being who is love. What could we call him?

      • Doug Shaver

        He talks about love almost like it is a person.

        It's called metaphor. Even we atheists can agree with the Les Mis lyricist who wrote, "To love another person is to see the face of God."

      • Hipshot

        Or her, as the case may be.

        I can well understand the desire to attribute love to a personality. But Ingersoll (and I) can't stretch it far enough to identify that love with the jealous and vengeful Yahweh. Not even close.

        • Why not? What kind of lover does not get jealous when their beloved chooses adultery? What kind of lover does not defend their beloved when they are attacked unjustly?

          • Hipshot

            A lot of them do, but most of them, unlike Yahweh, stop short of killing the offenders.

          • Yahweh is the author of life. Losing connection with Him has to ultimately result in death. Human lovers just don't have the same relationship with the life of their beloved. For us the life of another is something we didn't give and have no right to take.

  • Theological explanations, properly conceived, wouldn't compete with naturalist understandings of human values. Instead, they introduce an explanatory layer.

    If one enjoys a confident assurance in a given layered explanation, for example, that, like Pip, we have been gifted and, therefore, with great expectations, remain in search of our Benefactor, then we might expect that life's higher goods --- truth, beauty, goodness, freedom and love --- will be realized by all as intrinsically rewarding, which is to suggest that all will discover that such value-pursuits, in and of themselves, will be rewarding.

    What would be paradoxical, then, would be the suggestion that one who rejects our theological explanatory layer would thereby, necessarily, frustrate their own value-realizations of these higher goods.

    It seems incoherent to argue that a rejection of theism entails nihilism. It needn't necessarily entail metaphysical, epistemological, mereological, moral or existential nihilism. The choice between alternate worldviews doesn't, necessarily, entail value or valuelessness, meaning or meaninglessness, virtue or virtuelessness, practically speaking. Speculatively speaking, at best, it might entail a choice between imagining (and hoping) that reality's gifts might be enjoyed --- not just in abundance, but --- in superabundance.

    To imagine this any other way would seem to diminish the intrinsic value of those very goods which reflect the classical divine attributes, themselves, and, worse yet, would imagine one's putative Benefactor as rather stingy and discriminating, when, instead, He makes the sun to shine on all.

    I appreciate the logical maneuver of justification as an attempt to eliminate paradox over against what Kung called a nowhere anchored and paradoxical trust in uncertain reality. It might relieve cognitive dissonance but it doesn't, at bottom, eliminate all paradox and mystery. It doesn't mean that one's theological stance must be the case, philosophically, only that, if it's not, we're much less fortunate than we have hoped or imagined.

  • Marshall Bates

    To my Atheist friends, how about giving up skepticism for Lent!