Naturalism's view of Life

How do naturalists feel about life? Maybe a better question might be, “How do naturalists view the meaning and purpose of life?” Is there meaning to life? Is there purpose to human existence? For the naturalist who believes that a what created all things, the meaning of life is a real challenge.

Possibly no better statement expressing the futility produced by naturalistic views can be found than in Richard Dawkins’ statement that paints an overall synopsis about life. Dawkins is one of the world’s loudest proponents of naturalism and atheistic thought and he expresses his views clearly. Consider what Dawkins says about his view of life, including yours and mine, as well as everything in the world (italics added).

The total amount of suffering per year in the natural world is beyond all decent contemplation. During the minute that it takes me to compose this sentence, thousands of animals are being eaten alive, many others are running for their lives, whimpering with fear, others are slowly being devoured from within by rasping parasites, thousands of all kinds are dying of starvation, thirst, and disease. It must be so. If there ever is a time of plenty, this very fact will automatically lead to an increase in the population until the natural state of starvation and misery is restored. In a universe of electrons and selfish genes, blind physical forces and genetic replication, some people are going to get hurt, other people are going to get lucky, and you won't find any rhyme or reason in it, nor any justice. The universe that we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil, no good, nothing but pitiless indifference (Richard Dawkins, River Out of Eden: A Darwinian View of Life).

Dawkins’ view of life is bleak—to say the least. Nevertheless, Dawkins’ perspective is correct—that is, it is correct if one’s view of life insists there is no creator behind all things. Without a creator behind the existence of all things, there indeed is no reason and no purpose, only “pitiless indifference.”

One of the grave problems produced by naturalism is the stripping away all meaning and purpose in life. Maybe a good way to assess the futility that naturalism produces in people is to listen to people who experience the futility naturalistic views produce. This excerpt was taken from Reddit, a community forum where people can write their views and find community response and input (italics added).

How do I make decisions when nothing matters? Some people have core values they use to make rapid decisions that I, on the other hand, would agonize over. They justify their decisions with phrases like "because that's how I was raised" or "because that's what I believe in" or "because that's how I do things" or "that's what I want". How do I make decisions like that when I have no basis for any of my choices? I just do whatever my brain immediately tells me is a good idea—which wildly swings based on how I feel or what I'm doing. My behavior towards the world can generally be described as amoral and childish. Every philosophical stance I've skimmed over from this site has not helped. I don't care about making myself as happy as possible, I don't care about making my own small world a good place even if the outside world sucks, I don't care about making other people happy or leaving the world a better place. But it seems like every time someone says "I have trouble doing things because nothing matters", the glib response is "well if nothing matters then you should kill yourself". That seems to be the end of the discussion, but since I clearly haven't killed myself, it's not a useful conclusion for me. Anyways, I'm 35 years old and still haven't figured out what to do or why, and it seems like everyone else is either making equally bad decisions like me or they have some delusional worldview that they follow that I can't trick myself into believing. I have trouble sleeping because my dreams revolve about the hopelessness of death and the pointlessness of being alive or doing things. Yet when I'm awake I'm always paralyzed by my local environment and the inertia that comes with a general failure at life that comes from indecision and depression. Has anyone here been able to be happy with their choices in life without deluding themselves about the pointlessness of existence and the inevitability of death?
(The forum can be read here).

And how do naturalists respond to the struggles naturalistic philosophy produces in people. Well, just mull over the what French philosopher Albert Camus says to comfort such persons.

    Life is meaningless,
    but worth living.
    Provided you recognize its meaninglessness.--Albert Camus

In other words, if I may summarize—life is only worth living when a person comes to grips with their struggle that life is meaningless. And why is life meaningless for naturalists? Just take a look at what Thomas Edison has to say.

Our intelligence is the aggregate intelligence of the cells which make us up. There is no soul, distinct from mind, and what we speak of as the mind is just the aggregate intelligence of cells. It is fallacious to declare that we have souls apart from animal intelligence, apart from brains. It is the brain that keeps us going. There is nothing beyond that. Life goes on endlessly, but no more in human beings than in other animals, or, for that matter, than in vegetables. Life, collectively, must be immortal, human beings, individually, cannot be, as I see it, for they are not the individuals – they are mere aggregates of cells.--Thomas A. Edison

Of course, this must be the explanation of human life and existence when a creator is rejected. When life is viewed as being little more than components of biological and organic material comprised in such a way that humans spontaneously came to life, without design and intention, Edison’s view will be the end product. Of course, what do you think Edison would say if someone claimed the light bulb was spontaneously invented? Or that it’s inventor had no more intelligence or wherewithal than a carrot? Edison would think it ludicrous for someone to deny the obvious—that an intelligent innovator produced the light bulb after extensive effort, thought and labor. Nevertheless, Edison is perfectly fine with believing and publicly stating the universe has no creator. Edison is not concerned that the designs and complex systems within the world and universe point to an intellect of such greater complexity and genius that it renders the invention of the light bulb unmentionable in comparison.

Brent Weeks, the American fantasy novelist, can help bring this section to a close by providing a statement about the futility and meaninglessness of life when viewed through a naturalistic point of view. In one of his novels, Weeks writes a statement made by one of his characters, who says, “Life is empty. Life is meaningless. When we take a life, we aren’t taking anything of value. Wetboys [hired assassins] are killers. That’s all we do. There are no poets in the bitter business.”

In the end there are ramifications to naturalistic beliefs. Shia LaBeouf concisely states the results of living inside a naturalistic worldview, saying, “Sometimes I feel I am living a meaningless life, and I get frightened.” Naturalism is a destructive stone placed in the path of people’s lives.

Let’s continue on with naturalism and take a look behind the curtain.

To next section    Homepage