Thursday, December 15, 2005

Today's Brief Thought

Let's say that nature and matter are all that exist, and let's suppose that I want to argue with, say, a Christian. We'll also assume that I'm a believer that life and consciousness are completely reducible to complicated chemical physical reactions that accidentally arose over time.

Now why would I want to argue with a Christian? Presumably, one would think [unless one has an impish streak], it would be to both uphold my materialism and to polemicize against the Christian's supernaturalism.

But I now seem to run into a real problem. Why should it matter who is right and who is wrong in this scenario? The Christian is a product of a cosmic accident, and, of course, I'm a product of a cosmic accident.

My thoughts are [under the scenario] reducible to chemical reactions and physical processes taking place. How can I ascribe any sense of "right" and "wrong" to reactions and processes? They're just "there," it seems.

Even if I get past that seeming problem, what difference does it make if the Christian is completely wrong? We're historical and cosmic accidents, and soon enough we'll both expire and begin a process of decomposition that is quick measured against cosmic time. It doesn't matter to the rotted corpse what sort of life the rotted corpse lived. And, there doesn't seem to be any justifiable way for those living to obtain some meaning about the formerly living rotted corpse's live, if indeed you can't form value judgements about the behavior of particles.

If, as certain models claim, the universe will collapse back into a singularity, then that would eliminate space-time. What's the difference about whether I dated 10 Playboy Bunnies at once or was a eunuch? "After" the universe collapses back into a singularity, it seems that there is "no longer" any sense of "time" or even "causality."

On the other hand, if the universe doesn't collapse back into a singularity, eventually the heat death of the universe will take place, with temperatures asymptotically approaching absolute zero. In this sort of situation, what difference does it make in the grand scheme of things what I did, what I believed, and so on?

So why am I arguing with the Christian? Do I feel bold about realizing that I'm a cosmic accident? Am I sharing my heroism in "making my own life" with others?

Let's say that I decide not to debate the Christian because my father [say] has died recently. Why am I sad? Being sad is a value judgement --- saying that he meant something to me is ascribing value to him and his actions. But, if I'm correct with the above, there is no question-begging way in which this can be done, so I'm merely an emoting organism acting out in animal fashion what millions of years of instincts tell him to do.

My tears are a chemical and physical process shaped by impersonal forces over millions [or billions] of years. If I want to be consistent I need to tell myself that my sadness over my father is nothing more than an evolutionary mechanism. He was nothing but particles. He is dead, and he now decomposes. For my late father, it doesn't matter what life he lived --- he's dead and he isn't coming back. Why should I truly care? Whether or not I care, I'll be dead soon, and rotting, and it won't have mattered.

Certainly, I can live my live as if I've eked out some molecular amount of meaning in things, but why should that matter if I'm just a cosmic accident in a cold impersonal universe?

[These thoughts are completely stream-of-consciousness, btw. I've never understood the evangelical zeal of, in particular, atheists. It seems that, in the end, they're excited about what is, under their view, ultimately nothing and meaningless in the grand scheme of things. Now if the atheist scenario is true, I still don't see why an atheist should care about convincing me.]

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