It’s Blunt, but I Like It May 1, 2007

It’s Blunt, but I Like It

Andrew Post, a senior at North Dakota State University, has a very straightforward column explaining how he (as an atheist) responds to the question of what the purpose of life is. Echoing the reason that people often use when they climb Mount Everest, Post writes:

I hate to burst bubbles, but the only reason life exists on this planet, simply put, because it can.

The fish swimming around in the ancient seas moved onto land because (a) it was a handy place to go to avoid predators and (b) it was there. It was a new niche that could be expanded into.

Post also remarks on the incredulity many of us have as the fact that this reason is so hard for people to comprehend:

I never could understand why human beings are so desperate to have a purpose behind their lives and the lives of the human race as a whole.

Why do we need a reason to exist? Why do we need a higher purpose behind our existence?

Can’t we just be satisfied that we do exist and that we’re continuing to exist?

Humans are subject to these same rules.

As apes, we expanded to new niches and environments, and we’ve found a rather advantageous one, thanks to our large brains and opposable thumbs: the top of the food chain.

We took over the world because it was there, and we could.

There is one thing to pick on: The title of the article. I’m not sure if Post picked it or the paper’s editor did. But the headline “Chaos makes more sense than order” isn’t an accurate description of evolution. To paraphrase Richard Dawkins, “Evolution is the non-random selection of random mutations.”

[tags]atheist, atheism, Andrew Post, North Dakota State University, Mount Everest, evolution. Richard Dawkins[/tags]

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  • Steelman

    Mr. Post says in the article, “Combine these quips and you get the driving force behind the universe: ‘Because it’s there, and I can.'” Well, people make up stories about life, the universe, and everything because it’s there, and they can.

    It seems to me that people are natural born storytellers and mystery lovers. Those positing a higher purpose are telling stories about what they think they can do and why they should do it, as well as using narrative to fill in the gaps in human knowledge regarding how the universe got here and how life began (biogenesis). It’s normal, I think, for human beings to assume intentionality in natural events, especially big ones like life. Wondering if that shadow that just moved in the jungle might be a hungry predator kept our prehistoric ancestors alive. Those same ancestors knew they could cause events, so they thought maybe there were other intelligences causing events as well, and maybe there was something they could do to convince those bigger, stronger entities to treat the tribe well.

    The most interesting stories aren’t always the truest, but I wonder if novels don’t outsell non-fiction books at Borders.

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