• Jerry
    38
    Just finished having an impromptu existential discussion with my brother and am now seeking other perspectives.

    I'm agnostic on the existence of a deity for reasons this thread will elucidate. But while previously I was rather agnostic about merely a creative force behind our existence, I am now somewhat interested in a teleological reason for our existence, one that derives from a "creator".

    The primary reason for this change is because of a strange paradox I came to realize when it comes to our role in the universe. It seems plainly obvious from a scientific perspective that we're basically insignificant in the grand scheme of things, I don't have to explain why. However, we also seem inconceivably beyond the scope of our local planet. We can launch ourselves from the atmosphere, control particles to our whims, and capture the universe in a picture, a far cry from even the most impressive feats of the animal kingdom. The planet for billions of years was a fight for survival, not a toy for us to disregard (in lieu of, perhaps, a shiny red marble).

    So I ask, what is the reason for this vast discrepancy between us and all else in our world? Of course, the easy and most obvious answer is that there is none. Whether it be coincidental or inevitable, humans are the way they are and that's the way it is.

    I'm not entirely satisfied with this answer, partially because I think this phenomenon is so fantastic, partially for other reasons, such as the difficulty of conscious experience and moral ambiguity. Also, the reason I am comfortable with considering a deity, despite my recognition of scientific authorities on the matter (not just individuals as authorities, but the scientific theories themselves), I have a metaphysical inkling that our observable reality is not all that there is, which sort of derives from the question, "Why is there anything at all?" I'll probably end up explaining that further when someone asks.

    To wrap up, and the reason I'm even creating this discussion at all, is because of what ramifications there might be if there does exist such a deity. It may reopen the question of life after death, the extents of reality, our moral duties, and a grounding for consciousness. I don't expect this post alone to make anyone reconsider their position, I'll probably have to further justify my position to even be taken seriously, but I want a discussion nonetheless.
  • T Clark
    10.8k
    So I ask, what is the reason for this vast discrepancy between us and all else in our world?Jerry

    This is a well-thought-out and interesting post. Welcome to the forum.

    As for your question, I don't think it is true that

    we also seem inconceivably beyond the scope of our local planet. We can launch ourselves from the atmosphere, control particles to our whims, and capture the universe in a picture, a far cry from even the most impressive feats of the animal kingdom.Jerry

    We've barely left our planet. If I remember correctly, it was only recently that an unmanned spacecraft left the official boundaries of our solar system. Electromagnetic signals from our technology have only traveled a little more than 100 light years in a universe that is 46 93 billion light years across. The things humanity has done may have had more of an impact on the planet than most other organisms, but what we have accomplished only seems significant to our own self-fascinated eyes.

    We are only important in our own eyes. I don't think that's an argument against God, but I also don't see that it's an argument in favor.
  • James Riley
    2.9k


    Whenever anyone mentions the word "God" I find the understanding of it to be constrained. God can be secular, and not, at the same time. It's God, after all. In other words, God can be not-God. So there you have it: You were correct before, and your new inclinations are likewise correct. And not. Carry on.
  • TheMadFool
    13.9k
    We can launch ourselves from the atmosphere, control particles to our whims, and capture the universe in a picture, a far cry from even the most impressive feats of the animal kingdom.Jerry

    So I ask, what is the reason for this vast discrepancy between us and all else in our world?Jerry

    I've said this innumerable times and this seems as good an opportunity to reiterate - the, for lack of a better concept, evolutionary gap between human-level consciousness and nonhuman-level consciousness is, it seems, far, far greater than that between the inanimate and the animate. In other words, the difference between humans and the rest of life dwarfs the difference between life and non-life. It's almost as if we (humans) are an alien life-form on this planet - we are that unique. What lies beyond, beyond the consciousness horizon? Is there another level in this game of life?

    To offer a different perspective, that there's only one intelligent species (humans) suggests an antonymous, dark(er), reality - is intelligence becoming extinct? Are brains,, ergo, intelligence/sentience/consciousness going out of fashion?
  • 180 Proof
    11k
    Whenever they say "god", we hear "magic". In other words, let's be honest with ourselves, "otherworldly" assumptions or purposes amount to philosophical suicide (i.e. 'make-believing' at the expense of thinking-against-our-biases/phobias). "Magic"-of-the-gaps only ever denies (mystifies, occults) and does not dispel the actual, stubbornly persistent, gaps (uncertainties) in our knowledge of reality or self-understandings.
    The human mind expects M O R E from the world than the world has to offer. (e.g. Zapffe, Cioran, Camus, Rosset, Murray, Brassier) How [ought] a mind cope with this congenital – radical – dissatisfaction, frustration, misery?180 Proof
  • Wayfarer
    16.8k
    It seems plainly obvious from a scientific perspective that we're basically insignificant in the grand scheme of things, I don't have to explain why.Jerry

    The 'grand scheme' is something that has been discovered by human beings. So the 'grand scheme' that we seem insignificant in respect of, is still something which we alone seem to be capable of being aware of.

    So I ask, what is the reason for this vast discrepancy between us and all else in our world?Jerry

    It's an intelligent question to ask, and indeed only humans can ask it, so far as we know.

    That is not an argument for a higher intelligence, but it does call into question the view usually advocated by those who reject such a notion, which is that life is the 'product of chance'.

    Perhaps a teleological compromise could be that intelligent rational sentient beings are the only means for the Universe itself to become self-aware; that the evolution of sentient life-forms discloses horizons of being which otherwise could never be explored.
  • TheMadFool
    13.9k
    Whenever they say "god", we hear "magic". In other words, let's be honest with ourselves, "otherworldly" assumptions or purposes amount to philosophical suicide (i.e. 'make-believing' at the expense of thinking-against-our-biases/phobias). "Magic"-of-the-gaps only ever denies (mystifies, occults) and does not dispel the actual, stubbornly persistent, gaps (uncertainties) in our knowledge of reality or self-understandings.
    The human mind expects M O R E from the world than the world has to offer. (e.g. Zapffe, Cioran, Camus, Rosset, Murray, Brassier) How [ought] a mind cope with this congenital – radical – dissatisfaction, frustration, misery?
    — 180 Proof
    180 Proof

    Beautiful! :fire:
  • New2K2
    71
    Disturbing, especially if it's a natural extinction.
  • Jack Cummins
    4.6k

    I think that your topic raises the whole area of what is going on as the unseen. Some believe that there is no God and others in a deity. I think that it is a spectrum with no clear answers. It partly depends on how what one considers as being 'God'. Within the Judaeo-Christian tradition, many often believe in an anthropomorphic picture of God. This includes a representation of God in the person of Jesus, but usually goes beyond, with an emphasis on God 'the father'. This is a human image, and is based on the human attempt to understand.

    Others argue that there is no God, because most of life can be based on traceable causes. However, I do not believe that theism or atheism are absolutes because the source of everything remains hard to explain. What is the spark of consciousness? I believe that scientific materialism is inadequate in some ways. I wonder about some underlying source, like in the concept of the Tao.
  • unenlightened
    7.3k
    Does Mario believe in the Great Nintendo? The Great Nintendo is unsure, and unbothered.
  • Hermeticus
    181
    I am in a similar position, something along the lines of a faithful agnostic.
    I have a similar reason to be inclined to believe as well - although my reason is not any sort of human supremacy but the vast diversity of life itself and the mind-boggling process life undertakes from singular particles in the beginning of the universe to full conscious being.

    I think that it is a spectrum with no clear answers. It partly depends on how what one considers as being 'God'.Jack Cummins

    I can also strongly agree with this. We're very much culturally opinionated of what 'God' ought to be. Many of these cultures promoted the idea that god is an entity, a person of sorts, for a long time. This may be but this may also not be. God doesn't necessarily have to be conscious at all, at least not in a way we understand. My idea of god goes more along the line of being sub- or hyper-conscious (depending how you want to look at it). Similar to how an entire ecosystem isn't exactly conscious - but is formed of conscious parts - and as a whole forms something that is highly intelligent.


    So I ask, what is the reason for this vast discrepancy between us and all else in our world? Of course, the easy and most obvious answer is that there is none. Whether it be coincidental or inevitable, humans are the way they are and that's the way it is.Jerry

    On this matter, I'll just quote what I already wrote today:

    Intelligence also depends on context. An engineer may know everything about his machines but throw him out into the savanna and he's completely useless. That is not a question of capability but knowledge. In this case the specific knowledge of how to survive in the savanna.

    Also I'll stress this with every human vs animal comparison because it is so essential: The biggest difference which has allowed us to take a dominant role on this planet is over 8000 years of complex symbolic language. The reason that we have this is because our survival knowledge reached a point (agriculture) where survival became much easier and we could focus on other things
    Hermeticus
  • 180 Proof
    11k
    I am in a similar position, something along the lines of a faithful agnostic ... We're very much culturally opinionated of what 'God' ought to be.Hermeticus
    Some believe that there is no God and others in a deity. I think that it is a spectrum with no clear answers. It partly depends on how what one considers as being 'God'.Jack Cummins
    True; the lack of clarity of the g/G-concept makes these discussions a Monty Pythonesque exercise in nailing jello to a ceiling fan. :smirk:

    Excerpt from an old thread (no link, just copied & pasted):

    = = = = =
    For clarity's sake, I've compiled an inventory of the most common deity-TYPES (i.e. conceptions of divinity):

     (A) Creator Only (e.g. deism; pan-en-deism)

    (B) Intervener Only (e.g. animism; paganism)

    (C) both Creator and Intervener (e.g. poly/heno/mono-THEISM; pan-THEISM; pan-en-THEISM)

    (D) neither Creator nor Intervener (e.g. a-cosmism, pan-deism)

    By 'creator' I understand an entity that transcends its creation in logical anteriority and is ontologically separate from its creation (whether it intervenes (immanently or transcendently) or does not intervene in its creation).

    And by 'intervener' I understand an entity that causes changes in or to the (scientifically) observable, physical, world (i.e. nature) – independent of the entity's alleged provenance (i.e. whether natural or super-natural) – which are also, therefore, (scientifically) observable and yet cannot be accounted for, even in principle, by any natural agency, event, or force. E.g. "parting the Red Sea", "raising the dead", "curing incurable diseases via intercessionary prayer", "flooding the world", "creating the world c6000 years ago", "being on both sides in a co-religionists' sectarian / civil / holy war", etc... 
    = = = = =

    Assuming this list exhausts the conceptual variations on "god", it should be relatively straight forward to judge whether or not any deity-type is believable and, if two or more are believable, which is more / most believable. :meh:
    In my case, for instance, I'm agnostic (even ignostic) about (D) and I explicitly disbelieve (C) (which by implication rejects the other two (A, B) deity-types). — 180 Proof
    I suppose one can simply dismiss my deity-type quartet (as too definite? or too abstract? or too philosophical?); but then, it seems, one is okay with not knowing what one is talking about when one talks about "God". If so, how can one even claim to be "agnostic" about what amounts to a rorschach inkblot? :chin:
  • Jerry
    38
    Thanks for the compliment.

    The things humanity has done may have had more of an impact on the planet than most other organisms, but what we have accomplished only seems significant to our own self-fascinated eyes.T Clark

    You know, I think I have to disagree here. I think that there is, in some either cosmic or objective sense, something significant about what we're able to do. We may not have literally left the galaxy, say, but we've spanned the entire breadth of the universe of what we can observe; once again, we have pictured the universe and can film atoms. We're able to model the very fabric of reality itself, large and small. And these are the results of a random ape-ish species of life on a medium-to-small-sized planet designed for semi-intelligent organisms to eat, sleep, and die.

    Ultimately, we have no reference other than ourselves to claim what's significant and what isn't, but I think we can at least say that humans are beyond exceptional, specifically given how our prowess extends to the very edges of all there is. Hm, seems like I'm just reiterating at this point, but what I would like to hear is a little more on how either we aren't exceptional (some more argumentation against the claims I've made or support for your own) or, even if we are exceptional, some argumentation against why that would entail a creator.
  • Jerry
    38
    To offer a different perspective, that there's only one intelligent species (humans) suggests an antonymous, dark(er), reality - is intelligence becoming extinct? Are brains,, ergo, intelligence/sentience/consciousness going out of fashion?TheMadFool

    Tossing aside the creator talk for a second, I would offer that one reason there may only be one overtly intelligent species is because once there is one, it becomes so intelligent so quick that there's almost no room/time for another. Rather than intelligence becoming extinct, it's in its infancy, where no other intelligence has had the time to reach an equivalent. But similarly to your concern, it may also be the case that once intelligence reaches a certain level, it becomes destructive, similar to how we're destroying our own environment and putting ourselves at constant danger of nuclear weaponry and such things. That would mean intelligence does become extinct rather quickly, and is never able to flourish. Pessimism wins again.
  • T Clark
    10.8k
    I think that there is, in some either cosmic or objective sense, something significant about what we're able to do.Jerry

    Hm, seems like I'm just reiterating at this point, but what I would like to hear is a little more on how either we aren't exceptional (some more argumentation against the claims I've made or support for your own)Jerry

    I have no further argument for my point. Some of what humanity has done is really cool, but it just doesn't seem like that big a deal in a cosmic, objective context. To me, it certainly is not significant enough to suggest that a creator is necessary. There are a lot of organisms in the world. Humanity is just one more. We're important because we think we're important. I guess that's evolution too. We've not only evolved big brains, we've also evolved an over-blown sense of our own importance.
  • Fooloso4
    3.8k
    With regard to teleology, the move from what is to the conclusion of what must be is questionable. We might as well say that digestion is teleological. In Plato's Timaeus we find the comical image of a self-enclosed universe feeding on its own excrement.

    That organisms on earth developed as they did does not mean that there is some principle, reason, or necessity determining such an outcome. Under other circumstances, life on other planets, it might be possible that capacities other than what we recognize as intelligence developed. It might be that what we regard as intelligence is as primitive to them as digestion is to us. If, as Protagoras said, man is the measure, then perhaps we are a false measure of what lies beyond us.
  • TheMadFool
    13.9k
    Disturbing, especially if it's a natural extinction.New2K2

    We would be joining category of living organisms that committed evolutionary seppuku suicide bombing - h. sapiens is probably well on its way towards becoming a fossil record but we're taking a lot many other innocent species with us. We're nature's terrorists! Go figure!

    God?! Maybe...why not?
  • Jerry
    38
    Disappointing we seem to have a stalemate so soon. I feel like I've sufficiently expressed the "exceptionalism" of humanity, not just in relation to other animals, but with regards to our place and size in the universe.

    Notice, I'm not saying we're "cool" or "important" or even that what we do "matters" to anything but ourselves. Rather I'm saying that we're exceptional, meaning we're unusual, bizarre, and so far removed from all else around us. The former assign value to our actions, while the latter is an observation (removing the connotations that come from a word like "bizarre").

    Let me try to clarify the discussion thus far in an argumentative form:
    1. I claim there is a "strange discrepancy", an exceptionalism to humans, and this (may) imply some creator (I didn't really explain why that's the case though)
    2. You say the discrepancy isn't that great (we've barely left solar system and such), and that it only seems significant because we're impressed with ourselves. So my claim is not true, and therefore the argument doesn't hold.
    3. I counter that our "significance" (but more accurately, our exceptionalism) is justified by describing how our influence is greater than you think. Namely:
    We may not have literally left the galaxy, say, but we've spanned the entire breadth of the universe of what we can observe; once again, we have pictured the universe and can film atoms. We're able to model the very fabric of reality itself, large and small.Jerry
    4. You respond with a few more thoughts, saying that what we do "isn't that big a deal", of all the organisms in the world, "humanity is just one more", and that "we're important because we think we're important". However, I don't think you've really addressed the claims I had made in the previous point, which are precisely the reasons I do think these last claims aren't entirely accurate.
  • TheMadFool
    13.9k
    If so, how can one even claim to be agnostic about the equivalent of a rorschach inkblot?180 Proof

    Nice! Do you suppose Ludwig Wittgenstein is relevant in some way?
  • T Clark
    10.8k
    Disappointing we seem to have a stalemate so soon.Jerry

    Not a stalemate, a disagreement. Judgement of the significance of human accomplishment is a question of values, not fact. People are important to me, but that doesn't mean I think they have any cosmic significance.
  • TheMadFool
    13.9k
    Tossing aside the creator talk for a second, I would offer that one reason there may only be one overtly intelligent species is because once there is one, it becomes so intelligent so quick that there's almost no room/time for another. Rather than intelligence becoming extinct, it's in its infancy, where no other intelligence has had the time to reach an equivalent. But similarly to your concern, it may also be the case that once intelligence reaches a certain level, it becomes destructive, similar to how we're destroying our own environment and putting ourselves at constant danger of nuclear weaponry and such things. That would mean intelligence does become extinct rather quickly, and is never able to flourish. Pessimism wins again.Jerry

    This, it seems, has much broader implications.

    From Wikipedia (on the Fermi Paradox):

    It is the nature of intelligent life to destroy itself

    This is the argument that technological civilizations may usually or invariably destroy themselves before or shortly after developing radio or spaceflight technology. The astrophysicist Sebastian von Hoerner stated that the progress of science and technology on Earth was driven by two factors—the struggle for domination and the desire for an easy life. The former potentially leads to complete destruction, while the latter may lead to biological or mental degeneration. Possible means of annihilation via major global issues, where global interconnectedness actually makes humanity more vulnerable than resilient, are many, including war, accidental environmental contamination or damage, the development of biotechnology, synthetic life like mirror life, resource depletion, climate change,[80] or poorly-designed artificial intelligence. This general theme is explored both in fiction and in scientific hypothesizing.

    The Doomsday Clock

  • Ciceronianus
    2.6k
    he primary reason for this change is because of a strange paradox I came to realize when it comes to our role in the universe. It seems plainly obvious from a scientific perspective that we're basically insignificant in the grand scheme of things, I don't have to explain why. However, we also seem inconceivably beyond the scope of our local planet. We can launch ourselves from the atmosphere, control particles to our whims, and capture the universe in a picture, a far cry from even the most impressive feats of the animal kingdom. The planet for billions of years was a fight for survival, not a toy for us to disregard (in lieu of, perhaps, a shiny red marble).Jerry

    How is this as paradox? Is the claim that we're so significant on our speck of dust compared to the other inhabitants we must be significant enough for there to be a creator?
  • Corvus
    1k
    To wrap up, and the reason I'm even creating this discussion at all, is because of what ramifications there might be if there does exist such a deity. It may reopen the question of life after death, the extents of reality, our moral duties, and a grounding for consciousness.Jerry

    These questions cannot yield answers based on reason. They are out of scope for human reason to come to conclusions due to lack of evidence and verifications.

    The answers are in the realm of faith of religion or conjectures of scientific hypotheses. One must choose one or the other options for their beliefs, or remain open minded or agnostic on the topic.
  • Michael Zwingli
    417
    However, we also seem inconceivably beyond the scope of our local planet.Jerry

    !?
    We can mentally conceive of the universe, and consider ways, given our current technological state, of interacting therewith, but...

    We can launch ourselves from the atmosphere, control particles to our whims, and capture the universe in a pictureJerry

    Ummm...how does this indicate that we are not bound to the Earth?

    I think that you are giving our species more credit than it deserves; we who cannot even keep from killing one another over resource and various other disagreements, or from dangerously overpopulating this place with our species. You must realize that one asteroid strike on the order of the Chicxulub Impact, or a comet strike on the order of the Sudbury Impact, and homo sapiens may become just another extinct species... Regarding the appearance that we as a species are or may soon be no longer "earthbound", we may go to Mars within the next hundred years or so, and may even eventually establish colonies/research stations there. Even so, this Earth is the only place that we know of upon which we can live without all kinds of technological assistance, and that appears to be because we evolved upon, and so are adapted to this world. I fail to discern either the absolute necessity for, or the absolute impossibility of, a creator within this apparent history. The proposition that there is a creator appears to be one which must be either accepted, rejected, or ignored in the utter absence of evidence. The type of certainty which one might desire going either way is simply not available to us, and the acceptance of that fact, without inventing evidence, requires a certain amount of courage.

    And yes, welcome!
  • TheMadFool
    13.9k
    ???180 Proof

    A word is like a Rorshach inkblot, at least the word "God" seems to be so, in that it doesn't seem to have a fixed meaning. A very fluid situation is how I like to describe it.

    No man means all he says, and yet very few say all they mean, for words are slippery and thought is viscous. — Henry Adams
  • Tom Storm
    5.8k
    So I ask, what is the reason for this vast discrepancy between us and all else in our world? Of course, the easy and most obvious answer is that there is none. Whether it be coincidental or inevitable, humans are the way they are and that's the way it is.Jerry

    Perhaps I don't understand your point. Humans are essentially clever animals and we use language and technology to help manipulate our environment. I'm not sure why you would take this any further. We are also relentlessly self-regarding and narcissistic. We see meaning everywhere; we think everything is about us. We seem oblivious to that fact that all our frames of reference are human and belong to a scale of our own making.

    And besides, it's obvious we were genetically engineered by aliens who took a species of apes and zapped them... prove I'm wrong. :razz:
  • Wheatley
    2.3k
    question of life after deathJerry
    That (IMO) is the key inspiration behind many religions.
  • Vince
    69
    a universe that is 46 billion light years across.T Clark

    46 billion ly is the radius(of the observable universe)
  • T Clark
    10.8k
    46 billion ly is the radius(of the observable universe)Vince

    Fixed. Thanks.
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