Scalar Connection to Meaning of Life?
Because I’ve written so much about arguments from scale lately, the following statement in Dennis Prager’s op-ed on atheism and consolation caught my eye.
“‘And we promise to work for more gun control. But the truth is we don’t
have a single consoling thing to say to you because we atheists
recognize that the human being is nothing more than matter, no different
from all other matter in the universe except for having
self-consciousness. Therefore, when we die, that’s it. Moreover, within a
tiny speck of time in terms of the universe’s history, nearly every one
of us, including your child, will be completely forgotten, as if we
never even existed. Life is a random crapshoot. Our birth and existence
are flukes. And you will never see your child again.'” (emphasis mine)
This sounds very similar to the temporal aspect of arguments from scale: humans do not enjoy a temporally privileged position in the universe’s history.
This suggests another aspect to arguments from scale. If naturalism is true, then human beings do not have a temporally privileged position in the universe’s history. (The universe existed long before humans did and the universe will exist long after the last human dies out.) If significance or worth is at least partially based upon duration, then the miniscule duration of our species, compared to the duration of the universe, means that humans have little or no value. And having little or no value is more probable on the assumption that naturalism is true than on the assumption that theism is true.
For the record, I’m not convinced the above argument works; indeed, it makes several highly controversial assumptions. Still, I think something like the above argument lies in the background of many discussions about the meaning of life and morality. In fact, I’m reminded of the following line by William Lane Craig:
After all, what is so special about human beings? They
are just accidental by-products of nature which have evolved relatively
recently [Lowder’s note: this is a reference to the lack of a temporally privileged position on naturalism] on an infinitesimal speck of dust [Lowder’s note: this is a reference to the lack of a spatially privileged position on naturalism] lost somewhere in a hostile
and mindless universe and which are doomed to perish individually and
collectively in a relatively short time [Lowder’s note: another apparent reference to the lack of a temporally privileged position]. (emphasis mine)
So it seems like there is something here that is probably worth exploring further.
I’d be most interested in readers’ thoughts about this.