Sunday, September 13, 2015

"Life's a bitch, and then you die"

Phil and I have already lived more than half of our lives. Life on earth faces the same dismal prospect…When you die, you're not going to be surprised, because you're going to be completely dead...Let me summarize my views on what modern evolutionary biology tells us loud and clear -- and these are basically Darwin's views. There are no gods, no purposes, and no goal-directed forces of any kind. There is no life after death. When I die, I am absolutely certain that I am going to be dead. That's the end of me. There is no ultimate foundation for ethics, no ultimate meaning in life, and no free will for humans, either. What an unintelligible idea.
Life may have no ultimate meaning, but I sure think it can have lots of proximate meaning...Since we know that we are not going to live after we die, there is no reward for suffering in this world. You live and you die. I've seen bumper stickers (very sexist ones, actually) that say "Life's a bitch, and then you die." Well, whatever life is, you're going to die.
Many atheists make similar statements, although Provine is more austere than most. That's what they are stuck with.
What about proximate meaning without ultimate meaning? In a sense, that's a valid distinction. So let's play along with that.
There are movies–I don't have any particular movie in mind–where you have a rich hunter. He used to be a big game hunter, but he got bored with that. He's bagged all the big game. Since, moreover, humans are smarter than animals, it doesn't take that much to outwit the quarry, so that's not terribly challenging.
Being rich, he takes it to the next level. He has his goons abduct young men, men in their physical prime (upper teens and twenties), preferably with survival skills. He has them brought to his remote compound in South American. There he will hunt humans. They will be more challenging quarry than animals.
He may give them tools or primitive weapons. Of course, he will be better armed than they. He doesn't want the sport to be that challenging! It's not a fair fight. He retains the advantage. But it's exhilarating. 
He's an atheist. His life has no ultimate meaning. But hunting down humans for sport gives his life proximate meaning. A fairly stimulating way to pass the time. More interesting than gin rummy.  
From a secular standpoint, there's nothing wrong with that. 


  1. "From a secular standpoint, there's nothing wrong with that."

    Nor is it permanently satisfying, especially after he's done that a while like he did in hunting animals. But then where do you go from there? You can easily analogize this to drugs or pornography. Everything is about getting the next fix. But when you become used or desensitized to that, there's nowhere to go but down, barring divine intervention. Rock bottom is death, and some people even welcome that after recognizing how miserably they lived. I'll take the Christian solution to the problem of evil over this secular solution to the problem of misery any day.

  2. I'm puzzled by his statement that "modern evolutionary biology tells us loud and clear" that there is no life after death. I'm trying to figure out how modern evolutionary biology could tell us that loud and clear. Is it supposed to follow from our being descended from animals? But for that matter, I'm not sure that _biology_ can tell us that _animals_ have no life after death. I mean, Christians debate on whether dogs go to heaven, and I never yet heard anyone settle that debate with biological facts. How could one do so? It seems like he's doing a kind of mingling of what he considers to be the deliverances of modern evolutionary biology--presumably that we are just another species of evolved animals or some such--with a hefty dose of unargued metaphysics/theology--that animals don't live on after death. But he doesn't even recognize the inclusion of the metaphysical/theological premises.