BLIND PITILESS INDIFFERENCE
Good morning and welcome once again to another edition of Breakfast On The Blog. This is bound to ruffle some feathers…
“The universe exhibits precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil, and no good, nothing but blind, pitiless indifference.” – Richard Dawkins
I was reading an article in the New York Times by Konika Bannerjee and Paul Bloom (see link below) yesterday that dealt with people believing that most things occur in life for a reason, that there is a purpose behind the things that happen to us as we move through our lives. Most everyone truly believes that their lives are guided by some external force. Attributing the events in our lives to an external power, be it the gods or fate, makes us feel comfortable, gives us an explanation for things that we can put into an orderly understanding. The article dealt with new research that basically shows that that whether a person is religious or an atheist, most all of us tend to see a reason behind everything that happens. We seem to have a deep seated human need to believe that “there is an underlying order to life that determines how events turn out.” But is there really?
The several studies cited in the article seem to be saying that, regardless of religious training or the lack of if it, human beings have a deep seated psychological need to see life as orderly, purposeful and structured. To quote from the article, “This tendency to see meaning in life events seems to reflect a more general aspect of human nature: our powerful drive to reason in psychological terms, to make sense of events and situations by appealing to goals, desires and intentions. This drive serves us well when we think about the actions of other people, who actually possess these psychological states, because it helps us figure out why people behave as they do and to respond appropriately. But it can lead us into error when we overextend it, causing us to infer psychological states even when none exist. This fosters the illusion that the world itself is full of purpose and design.”
In that sense we are deluding ourselves, and basing our actions upon a framework that has little relevance to what is really happening. We have a tendency to believe that the world is structured in a way that is ruled by rewarding the good and punishing the bad. But it is a belief that just doesn’t pan out in reality. Religious believers, when karma isn’t to be found evening things out while they are alive, in other words, when “bad” shit happens and those responsible get away with their “bad” actions, tend to put justice, reward or retribution off until the “afterlife.” A nice way to explain the world when it insists on being stubbornly unfair. But there is no proof that this orderly give and take really exists, no way of objectively demonstrating that it is really anything more than a psychological need and not a reality.
As the two authors of the article go on to explain, “Some people find it reassuring to think that there really are no accidents, that what happens to us — including the most terrible of events — reflects an unfolding plan. But the belief also has some ugly consequences. It tilts us toward the view that the world is a fundamentally fair place, where goodness is rewarded and badness punished. It can lead us to blame those who suffer from disease and who are victims of crimes, and it can motivate a reflexive bias in favor of the status quo — seeing poverty, inequality and oppression as reflecting the workings of a deep and meaningful plan.” Sound familiar? Attitudes like that prevail among all too many people today. To think that way is sadly pathetic. It is Medieval. It is a disgrace. They go on to make the very valid point that, “But even those who are devout should agree that, at least here on Earth, things just don’t naturally work out so that people get what they deserve. If there is such a thing as divine justice or karmic retribution, the world we live in is not the place to find it. Instead, the events of human life unfold in a fair and just manner only when individuals and society work hard to make this happen. We should resist our natural urge to think otherwise.”
I am not religious because I cannot fathom a “god” who would create and manage the world in the manner in which it has, is and will be unfolding. I want no part of a “god” who runs the world like an exclusive club in which the “members” have to meet certain strict criteria or membership is taken away. If “god” is supposed to be a compassionate caring being, why has he/she/it created a world that more often than not is sadly lacking in those qualities? Does it really make any sense that we are constantly being required to jump through hoops in order to attain divine justice and salvation? If “god” is perfect, why has he/she/it created a world and its inhabitants that misses that mark by light years? A perfect “god” creates an imperfect world? And like rats in a maze we have to work our way through it to get the cheese on the other end? What are we, some kind of perverse lab experiment? It just doesn’t make sense.
I also cannot see myself living in a world all mapped out with some divine “purpose” in which I am but a pawn. In stating his opposition to Quantum Physics Einstein said that, “God does not play dice with the universe.” We now know that the physical laws of the universe are the dice themselves. Things are and they aren’t. And if that is the case, as it really appears to be, then there can be no purpose, no plan. I agree with Richard Dawkins. My universe is one that has “no design, no purpose, no evil, and no good.” Those things, design, purpose, evil and good, are to me little more than false human psychological perspectives, lacking any tangible verifiable basis in reality. They exist, but only in our minds and our interpretation of what we experience. There is no universal norm for evil or good. Rather than live in a world burdened with some predetermined purpose and direction, I find it much more beautiful, interesting and exciting to be a participant in a universe that is spontaneous, unpredictable and wonderfully based on “nothing but blind, pitiless indifference.“
The link to the New York Time article is here: (http://www.nytimes.com/2014/10/19/opinion/sunday/does-everything-happen-for-a-reason.html)
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