Snide believer says atheists make up fairy tales to find meaning in life

There’s a new piece in The Federalist that tries to take down atheists because, says author Richard Weikart, we have no better grounding for the “purpose and meaning” of our lives than do religionists. In fact, we’re worse in that endeavor than are religionists who find purpose and meaning from their faith. Here’s Weikart’s sorry piece (click on the screenshot):

I didn’t know what the Federalist was or who this dude Weikart is, so I looked them up. According to Wikipedia, The Federalist is “an American English-language online magazine that covers politics, policy, culture, and religion. The site was co-founded by Ben Domenech and Sean Davis and launched in September 2013.  Domenech serves as publisher of The Federalist. According to Domenech, the site is dedicated to discussing ‘the philosophical underpinnings of the day’s debate’ instead of focusing on what he calls ‘the horserace or the personalities. The Federalist has been described as influential in conservative and libertarian circles.”

Okay, so the conservatism explains the atheist-bashing. But who is Weikart? The Federalist describes him as “professor of history at California State University, Stanislaus, and author of The Death of Humanity: And the Case for Life and Hitler’s Religion.” It conspicuously omits that Weikart is also a Senior Fellow with Discovery Institute’s [DI’s] Center for Science & Culture, a creationist think tank, that he’s a Christian creationist, and that his books have been criticized by genuine scholars. The Hitler book, for instance, was funded by the Discovery Institute and has the thesis that Darwinism gave rise to the Holocaust. That idea, and Weikart’s views, were handily rebutted by my colleague Bob Richards in his excellent and well-researched essay “Was Hitler a Darwinian?” (Richards’ answer was “a very loud and unequivocal No!”)

Well, that’s Weikart’s background, which does explain his strong animus towards atheists. But what about his arguments? First, I’ll preen a little because he puts me in august company, even though I don’t deserve it. And that is the company of those who deny an external purpose and “transcendent meaning” for our lives. But, say I and others, we can and do have self-created meanings of our lives:

Atheists portray themselves as arch-rationalists who embrace reality without flinching. As I explain in my recent book, “The Death of Humanity: And the Case for Life,” many prominent atheist thinkers, such as Bertrand Russell, Jean-Paul Sartre, Jerry Coyne, Richard Dawkins, have insisted that because there is no God, there is also no cosmic purpose, no objective morality, and no transcendent meaning to life. The atheistic Duke University philosophy professor Alex Rosenberg dismissed meaning and morality as an illusion in a 2003 article, “Darwin’s Nihilistic Idea: Evolution and the Meaninglessness of Life.”

. . . The prominent atheistic evolutionary biologist Jerry Coyne has also expressed dismay that anyone would dare suggest that atheists don’t have any meaning in their lives. But if you dig deeper—for example, by actually reading the empirical study—you find that atheists who insist that non-religious people can find meaning in life have changed the meaning of the word “meaning.”

Okay, so what is this “empirical study” he touts, and how have we changed the meaning of “meaning” as it applies to our lives? Here’s how Weikart describes the study, which actually supports the notion that atheists don’t lead lives of nihilism and anomie:

The 2018 study in question by David Speed, et al, “What Do You Mean, ‘What Does It All Mean?’ Atheism, Nonreligion, and Life Meaning,” [JAC: reference and link at bottom, free pdf here] used surveys to try to figure out if atheists find meaning in life or are nihilistic. This survey defined someone as nihilistic if he or she upheld the position: “In my opinion, life does not serve any purpose.”

This study found that atheists and non-religious people are not nihilistic, because they claimed that they did have a purpose in life. This is an interesting finding that seems to refute the oft-repeated charge (levied by religious folks) that atheists are nihilistic.

However, there is a problem with this finding. The survey admitted the meaning that atheists and non-religious people found in their lives is entirely self-invented. According to the survey, they embraced the position: “Life is only meaningful if you provide the meaning yourself.”

Thus, when religious people say non-religious people have no basis for finding meaning in life, and when non-religious people object, saying they do indeed find meaning in life, they are not talking about the same thing. If one can find meaning in life by creating one’s own meaning, then one is only “finding” the product of one’s own imagination. One has complete freedom to invent whatever meaning one wants.

This makes “meaning” on par with myths and fairy tales. It may make the non-religious person feel good, but it has no objective existence.

Yes, Weikart thinks that religion (read: his Christianity) imparts an objective purpose in life, and when we atheists criticize that as purpose coming from a “fairy tale”, well, at least religious people’s “purposes” are objective!:

. . . apparently many atheists and non-religious people have a hunger for meaning and a sense of moral rectitude that their worldview cannot satisfy. Sure, they are free to invent their own meaning and morality, but then they should be honest and admit that their meaning and morality has no advantage over the meaning or morality religious people put forward —or for that matter, it has no advantage over the meaning and purpose evil people invent. Their self-created meanings are every bit as much “fairy stories” as the religious ones they like to lampoon.

First of all, Weikart doesn’t recognize the irony of his implication that “See? Atheists believe in fairy tales. They’re just as bad as we are!” Well, he might respond that his Christianity is certainly not a fairy tale, because it’s not only based on empirical truths like Jesus Man being resurrected, but also gives us an objective morality and an objective purpose in our lives. But why is his Christianity true and Islam and Hinduism, which inspire different purposes, false?

But step back and consider the question: what is that meaning and purpose? As we know, one can discern an infinite number of meanings and life-purposes from just the Bible alone, for its “objective” lessons are debatable. Is the lesson to do what God tells us to do? In that case, let us stone adulterers and kids who curse their parents, and let us forsake our families and homes to follow Jesus. And how do we follow Jesus? Does our purpose include fighting against abortion and gay marriage, not to mention the Evil Materialism of Evolution? (To my mind, any purpose that makes its adherents tell lies about science, as does the Discovery Institute and Weikart himself, is a nefarious purpose.)  Discerning purpose from the Bible is at best an act of pure subjectivity, and one that comports, as Plato realized, with a pre-existing and non-Goddy set of values.

And which scripture should the faithful pick to give them purpose, and which faith should they follow? What about Muslims? The Qur’an and its interpretations can lead to purposes completely different from those of Christians, and include exterminating unbelievers and scrupulously following the dictates of the Holy Book itself—something that Christians have learned to turn into malleable metaphors.

Any atheist can tell you that a self-constructed meaning of life is infinitely preferable to one depending on fictitious books. For the main error that Weikart makes is thinking that there’s something fictitious, something “fairy-tale-ish”, about divining one’s own meaning and purpose from our individual preferences, tastes, and secular beliefs. The bases for our “meanings” are, I’ve maintained, based on our preferences—preferences themselves grounded on secular reason and one’s personal set of emotions and pleasures. If these are the things that give us meaning, then what does it mean to say that they “have no objective existence”? They certainly do—just as objective an existence as the religious delusions (by this I mean thoughts and beliefs) of credulous believers like Weikart.

Steve Pinker’s latest book, Enlightenment Now, makes a persuasive case that progress in human welfare over the last centuries has been promoted not by religious faith, but by reason, humanism, and science. If we depended purely on faith and revelation to solve our problems, we’d have gotten nowhere. Those same virtues apply when an atheist discerns whatever meaning in life he or she finds.

And, in the end, yes, the invented meanings and purposes of those atheists who are humanists—most of us—are superior to a blind adherence to ancient dogma that brooks no dissent or reason.

Many readers have denied that they have any meaning or purpose in life, even self-created ones. That’s okay with me, for I think that while they can’t declare a purpose, they enact one by doing what they find fulfilling.

h/t: Larry

_______

Speed, D., I. Thomas J. Coleman, and J. Langston. 2018. What Do You Mean, “What Does It All Mean?” Atheism, Nonreligion, and Life Meaning. SAGE Open 8:2158244017754238.

69 Comments

  1. glen1davidson
    Posted March 29, 2018 at 12:43 pm | Permalink

    How terrible to invent your own meaning instead of letting somebody else do it.

    Some bozo like Weikert.

    Glen Davidson

  2. yazikus
    Posted March 29, 2018 at 12:45 pm | Permalink

    I wonder if the DI credentials were left out due to dishonesty or shame?

    • GBJames
      Posted March 29, 2018 at 12:52 pm | Permalink

      Dishonesty. They are shameless.

      • ploubere
        Posted March 29, 2018 at 2:01 pm | Permalink

        sub.

      • nicky
        Posted March 29, 2018 at 11:53 pm | Permalink

        😊😊😊

  3. Posted March 29, 2018 at 12:56 pm | Permalink

    This couldn’t be a clearer case of textbook projection.

    • Heather Hastie
      Posted March 29, 2018 at 1:19 pm | Permalink

      Yep.

  4. JonLynnHarvey
    Posted March 29, 2018 at 1:00 pm | Permalink

    Well, in one sense anyone’s meaning of life (whether religious OR secular) is constructed out of some sort of raw materials that one finds around oneself, whether from the natural world or from stories believed to be about the transcendent. Secularists do not construct their meaning of life from whole cloth!!

    Furthermore, any meaning of life has some element of subjectivity in the sense of whatever it is resonates with one’s personality on a deep level.

    Some religious people even find some motivation for living in entirely this-worldly pursuits. Albert Schweitzer comes to mind.

    The article seems to me to be doing a semantic bait-and-switch on the meaning of the term “fairy tale” which is just a tad Orwellian.

    The secularist claim is that their meanings for life have better grounding and are constructed from more verifiable materials.

    A better argument that a religious could have made is that their sense of meaning in life has an ultimacy which the secularists does not, but the secularist can alway reply that THEIR sense of meaning and purpose has a reliability that the religious does not.

    This article is really odious in a way that the NYTimes article Jerry posted earlier today is not.

  5. garthdaisy
    Posted March 29, 2018 at 1:01 pm | Permalink

    This guy is a nut like other nuts but he’s not wrong about the existentialist version of meaning. The existentialist notion that we create our own meaning in life is demonstrably false. Man can not will what he wills. Meaning presents itself to us from our biology. We do not reason it into existence. We can notice which things and actions give us meaning, but we can not just decide to find meaning in sailing. You have to be born with the genes that make you fall in love with sailing.

    The proper retort to Weikart’s nonsense is not that we atheists create our own meaning but rather that meaning is biologically determined and therefore far more objective than any religion as Jerry points out. Most human feelings are universal and in the end we all find meaning in love, beauty, passion, and most importantly contributing the the overall wellbeing of our tribe. This “purpose” in life is an evolved fact.

    I don’t buy Weikarts’s nonsense nor do I buy the existentialist idea that each of us creates our own meaning. In fact I believe Weikart’s nonsense thrives on the existentialist idea of meaning and purpose.

    • ploubere
      Posted March 29, 2018 at 2:07 pm | Permalink

      Yes, I think you’ve nailed it. We don’t have any choice in what things we find important to us, instead we discover them through experience. So they aren’t invented at all, but completely real.

      The religious on the other hand try to assign truth to fictitious ideas that have to be taught rather than experienced, because they aren’t real.

      • garthdaisy
        Posted March 29, 2018 at 3:45 pm | Permalink

        Indeed. We can’t give these people ammo by claiming our meaning is as arbitrary as theirs.

    • nicky
      Posted March 29, 2018 at 11:54 pm | Permalink

      Yes, I agree. But how deterministic! 😆

    • Posted March 30, 2018 at 7:20 am | Permalink

      I also wouldn’t agree with “Life is only meaningful if you provide the meaning yourself,” as Weikarts claims all atheists think. But I wouldn’t put it all down to inherited biology either. Culture and pure idiosyncrasy have roles to play, too. A large part of life is self-fulfilling prophecy. Someone who tells herself “I am a scientist at heart” will typically make a good scientist, but the very same person might have said “I am a writer at heart” and that would have worked out fine.

      • Kevin Lawson
        Posted March 30, 2018 at 2:43 pm | Permalink

        What you are “at heart” is more a discovery than a choice. You can push yourself in certain directions, but only to the extent that your nature is plastic and malleable into the chosen form.

  6. Ken Kukec
    Posted March 29, 2018 at 1:03 pm | Permalink

    Russell, Sartre, and Dawkins — you’re keepin’ pretty distinguished company these days, boss.

  7. busterggi
    Posted March 29, 2018 at 1:11 pm | Permalink

    I don’t suppose he presents any of these fairy tales because I don’t know any of them.

    • Posted March 29, 2018 at 4:08 pm | Permalink

      All people invent “fairy tales” (fantastic thought constructs) for various reasons and purposes. Apparently this is how human mind works. I suppose, some are suitable models of reality, others are an escape means less harmful than substance abuse. If anything, religious people use larger fantastic constructs than atheists. Moreover, religious people are the only group of adults fully oblivious to the fantastic nature of their constructs.

  8. Heather Hastie
    Posted March 29, 2018 at 1:15 pm | Permalink

    Good response Jerry! Weikert’s article is so lacking in logic that I don’t even understand how his brain works.

    I’ve come across ‘The Federalist’ via a senior editor, Mollie Hemingway, who’s a contributor on Fox News. She’s one of the ones who makes me really angry because of the arrant nonsense she spouts. Her support for Trump is Hannity-like. So much so that her attitudes frequently annoy other Fox News commentators from more mainstream but Republican media outlets on ‘Special Report’, which is where I see her. Anyway, what I’m getting at is this kind of article from ‘The Federalist’ doesn’t surprise me one bit. They appear to cater to the Trump evangelicals.

    • Randall Schenck
      Posted March 29, 2018 at 1:25 pm | Permalink

      They sure are something different from the Federalist we had at the beginning of our country here in the U.S. I wonder if they ever heard of Hamilton when they were borrowing this name.

      The best I could say for this guy Weikert, is you work your side of the street and we will take care of ours.

      • Heather Hastie
        Posted March 29, 2018 at 2:17 pm | Permalink

        Yeah, though if this is the best they have on offer, their side of the street is going to quickly fall into disrepair.

        I’ve already said it, but I really can’t get over how muddled his thinking is. It’s like he’s decided what his conclusion is, and somehow he’s got to find a way to make the facts fit that conclusion. The trouble is, it’s not actually possible to do that.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted March 29, 2018 at 2:00 pm | Permalink

      Yeah, M. Hemingway bugs me, too. There’s another writer over at The Federalist, Mary Katharine Hams, who also makes the rounds on the shows, and is an occasional panelist on Maher’s program. She’s got attitude, too, and sometimes gets under my skin, but she trends more libertarian, and I kinda get a kick out of her anyway.

      • Heather Hastie
        Posted March 29, 2018 at 2:26 pm | Permalink

        Yeah, I’ve come across her too. She’s on Fox News and CNN as well, and isn’t so bad. More reasonable anyway. Her husband was a former Marine and White House aide for Bush. He was killed in a bicycle accident in the Marine Corps Marathon in 2015.

        • Filippo
          Posted March 29, 2018 at 6:43 pm | Permalink

          I’m reminded that I have a book written some years ago by wife and husband bicycle enthusiasts. The back of the book states that the wife was killed in a biking accident resulting from trying to avoid a squirrel which ran in front of her. No doubt others here have had my experience of squirrels running in front of their vehicles.

          It makes me cringe, and contract in a tonus sort of way (if you know what I obliquely, subtly mean). So stressful and sorrowful. For what I gather are deep-time evolutionary reasons, such a comparatively big object (can’t they SEE it?!?) apparently and nevertheless has not yet “registered” with them, but raptors have for at least hundreds of thousands of years, eh? And then I think to myself, “Why get upset, if they are unable or unwilling to notice? It’s not my fault.”

          A few days ago I saw a male towhee fly under a minivan. I looked in vain for it to proceed on unharmed. No joy. In a couple of seconds it listlessly spiraled out from under the vehicle, and then down onto the pavement. I felt like I had instantly lost five minutes of my life. I rail at the beasties, but understand that they can’t help it.

          • Posted March 29, 2018 at 7:00 pm | Permalink

            I have found that the older I have become, the more that I am upset with road kill. Just another example of humans negatively affecting the lives of non-humans.

            • Posted March 30, 2018 at 6:30 am | Permalink

              Everyone on our car was relieved that I managed not to hit the deer that proinked into the road just ahead of us today!

              /@

              Sent from my iPhone. Please excuse all creative spellings.

              >

          • Heather Hastie
            Posted March 29, 2018 at 7:09 pm | Permalink

            I often wonder if birds are playing games with cars. On the open road, they will swoop down just in front and swoop up again just as they reach the car. I wonder if they’re having fun riding the currents (or whatever they’re called) created by the car. Sometimes they get it wrong and get splattered on the grill.

            • Ken Kukec
              Posted March 29, 2018 at 7:55 pm | Permalink

              The Good Doctor thought the same about jackrabbits. 🙂

            • Posted March 30, 2018 at 6:32 am | Permalink

              I always thought they were after insects caught in your bow wave.

              /@

              Sent from my iPhone. Please excuse all creative spellings.

              >

              • Heather Hastie
                Posted March 30, 2018 at 11:58 am | Permalink

                I never thought of that! Yeah. Could be.

  9. Posted March 29, 2018 at 1:21 pm | Permalink

    There is an element to the atheist/scientist/rational belief system that confuses others. We explain how our lives have meaning without having to refer to religious beliefs but, at the same time, we explain evolution as this purposeless process. From a purely scientific perspective, human life doesn’t have purpose except perhaps to reproduce. Since “purpose” and “meaning” are so related, it should not surprise us that it confuses people. It would be nice to have some short, pithy, self-contained explanation that would help those that don’t get this. Does anyone know of such a blurb?

    • AC Harper
      Posted March 29, 2018 at 1:33 pm | Permalink

      Building on Jordan Peterson… there’s a ‘real world’ and a ‘relevant world’. Arguably the ‘real world’ is a linear world, where the same effect will follow the same cause every time. The ‘relevant’ world is the adaptive world – because of memory, hidden layers, a different effect may follow the same cause.

      Onlookers (e.g. humans) cannot see the hidden layers and so have created predictions (myths, patterns, archetypes, free will, agency) to help them make sense of what they see and what they expect to happen next. The hidden layers are also often hidden from introspection by the individual themselves, and so they too create predictions (myths, patterns, archetypes, free will, agency) to help them make sense of how they ‘should’ react and what they expect to happen next.

      So… ‘purpose’ and ‘meaning’ are ‘relevant’ in the ‘relevant world. For a long time the patterns were provided, through society, by religions. Now, not so much.

      The ‘relevant world’ is just a non-linear part of the ‘real world’ though. Rather like the topping on an open sandwich – there is only the one sandwich.

      • Posted March 29, 2018 at 3:43 pm | Permalink

        Sorry, you lost me at “linear world”.

        • GBJames
          Posted March 29, 2018 at 3:48 pm | Permalink

          Ditto. There’s a world. It includes things like human imaginings. The whole thing is three dimensional. Plus time.

        • AC Harper
          Posted March 29, 2018 at 4:24 pm | Permalink

          There is only the linear world, a specific effect will always follow a specific cause… but add many causes and effects together into adaptive systems then *at the level of the adaptive system* different effects may appear to arise from identical causes because of the prior history of adaptations.

          So… purpose and meaning (and the rest of the world relevant to humans) are patterns arising from adaptive systems, and we use these useful fictions to navigate our way through life.

          • GBJames
            Posted March 29, 2018 at 4:27 pm | Permalink

            I don’t know. That sounds kind of woo-ish to me.

          • Michael Fisher
            Posted March 29, 2018 at 4:59 pm | Permalink

            @AC Harper
            You are saying linear dynamical systems are solvable [predictable] while non-linear dynamical systems are nearly always unsolvable [unpredictable]. Which is true!

            Incidentally it isn’t true that the “real world” is a “linear world”, as I understand those terms. But, it might be true if you defined your terms such that me & others can grasp your assertions by the horns!

      • Filippo
        Posted March 29, 2018 at 6:57 pm | Permalink

        A lot of people talk about whether something is or is not “relevant.” I read it a lot in the NY Times. As an example, a few days ago there was an article by Maureen Dowd about her interview with former film studio mogul Barry Diller. She reflected to him that not a few people hold the opinion that Hollywood is no longer “relevant.”

        Wherever I read such a sentiment, that is how the sentence ends the vast majority of times. The sentence should continue on to specify relevant to what or whom. Since it doesn’t so continue on, I am left to conjecture that the “what” or “whom” is the U.S. mass popular culture.

        Speaking for myself, I could not care less whether I and my interests are relevant to the mass pop U.S. culture. Whoever cares to do so can nickname me “The Relic” for all I care.

  10. J. Quinton
    Posted March 29, 2018 at 1:22 pm | Permalink

    So according to Weikart, theistic existentialism</a? should not exist.

    • J. Quinton
      Posted March 29, 2018 at 1:22 pm | Permalink

      D’oh…

  11. Ken Kukec
    Posted March 29, 2018 at 1:33 pm | Permalink

    “… when non-religious people object, saying they do indeed find meaning in life, they are not talking about the same thing. If one can find meaning in life by creating one’s own meaning, then one is only “finding” the product of one’s own imagination. One has complete freedom to invent whatever meaning one wants.”

    So says Weikart in his piece. He fails to recognize that religious people do precisely the same thing. It’s merely that, as to one facets of life in which they’ve created meaning, they label that “God.” They may adopt broad formulations and rote incantations, each according to his or her embraced sect, but at bottom every man-jack and woman-jane religious person understands “god” in their own, idiosyncratic way.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted March 29, 2018 at 1:38 pm | Permalink

      “facet” should be singular, obvs.

    • Sastra
      Posted March 29, 2018 at 3:50 pm | Permalink

      Even if God exists and did indeed create the universe and ourselves for a purpose, why would His purpose also be our purpose? There’s no logical entailment there. Nor can they just build such a connection into the definition of God.

      It would be like saying that the purpose of cattle is to be made into hamburger, and therefore cows have so much more meaning in their lives than wild oxen. Our goals don’t necessarily transfer to the livestock.

      If someone is equivocating here, I don’t think it’s us.

  12. Joe Seither
    Posted March 29, 2018 at 1:46 pm | Permalink

    there’s a difference between useful and true, there’s a difference between “this works for me” and “everyone must accept this”

  13. karaktur
    Posted March 29, 2018 at 2:02 pm | Permalink

    The closest thing I have ever considered as a “universal” meaning for life is that somehow the universe generated life which grew into something that looks back at the universe (itself?) with curiosity and occasional cleverness. It would be a shame if that aspect of the universe were extinguished.

  14. Posted March 29, 2018 at 2:12 pm | Permalink

    Richard Weikart is in the Encyclopedia of American Loons at http://americanloons.blogspot.com/2013/02/407-richard-weikart.html

  15. ladyatheist
    Posted March 29, 2018 at 2:34 pm | Permalink

    They are certainly convincing — they convinced me that they are ignorant jerks!

  16. Richard Sanderson
    Posted March 29, 2018 at 3:41 pm | Permalink

    It feels a little heartening to hear a good old silly attack on atheists coming from the religious types.

    Just recently, they seem to be originating from the regressives and the New Racists (Thomas Smith, Dan Arel, Peter Ferguson, Sacha Saeen, ** ********, PZ Myers, Phil “The Stalker” Torres, et al)

  17. GBJames
    Posted March 29, 2018 at 4:03 pm | Permalink

    It isn’t like wolves haven’t been reintroduced before in other places. We have them now in Wisconsin. So far no children have been consumed. The people with the greatest objections have been bear hunters. They take their dogs out for training while wolves are in their dens and wolves get the dogs.

    Then again, we don’t have a lot of sheep farming here.

    • Michael Fisher
      Posted March 29, 2018 at 5:03 pm | Permalink

      Wrong post GB

      • Posted March 29, 2018 at 5:18 pm | Permalink

        He’s creating his own meaning!

        /@

      • GBJames
        Posted March 29, 2018 at 6:08 pm | Permalink

        You have a point there.

  18. Jon Gallant
    Posted March 29, 2018 at 4:05 pm | Permalink

    For many years, I have had no trouble filling out official forms which contain a space for RELIGION. I simply write BACH in that space.

    Seattle’s Discovery Institute has a somewhat odd history. It began in 1990 as an urban affairs think-tank, focused primarily on regional transportation issues. Its leading light was Bruce Chapman, known at the time as a liberal(!) Republican politician and City Councilman, in the manner (now extinct) of Oregon Senator Mark Hatfield. In the mid 1990s, The DI rather suddenly embraced an agenda of anti-evolution, intelligent design pseudoscience. It remains a matter of speculation whether this was always part of Bruce Chapman’s outlook, or an opportunistic response to generous funding from Howard Ahmanson Jr., a Christian conservative millionaire, and similar donors.

    • Posted March 29, 2018 at 9:59 pm | Permalink

      The DI has been anti-evolution from its founding, and Chapman is hardly a liberal Republican, now or then. He is still Chairman of the Board. Even the Templeton Foundation turned down the DI’s pleas for money for its ID agenda. The Cascadia project (regional transportation) is on its agenda only because the Gates Foundation foolishly gave them money to study it. The DI has contributed nothing of value towards solving transportation problems in the Puget Sound region. This place has no redeeming value, now or ever.

    • Posted March 30, 2018 at 7:27 am | Permalink

      Now there’s a good religion!

  19. Posted March 29, 2018 at 4:06 pm | Permalink

    The religious call people who don’t believe in their particular view atheists – hence all the world’s people are atheists to some other religion, even the Pope. A nonsensical term of little meaning. Atheism is of kind of a sanctified swear word.

    rz

    • Posted March 29, 2018 at 4:16 pm | Permalink

      Not always. Where I live, believers make a clear distinction between adherents of other religions and “the godless ones”.

  20. Posted March 29, 2018 at 4:19 pm | Permalink

    I am surprised that Prof. Coyne has not come across the Federalist before. Apparently I make more “far-right” Web searches, because I am regularly sent to it. It is a source similar to Breitbart, can be used for the same purposes and has the same defects.

  21. shelleywatsonburch
    Posted March 29, 2018 at 4:25 pm | Permalink

    So creating your own meaning for your own life is a fairy tale? Wow. What a foolish thing to assert.

  22. docbill1351
    Posted March 29, 2018 at 4:56 pm | Permalink

    The shorter Weikart is “Hitler, Hitler, Hitler and did I mention Hitler.” Severe mental issues which by no coincidence is the number one job requirement to be a Disco Tooter.

    Weikart also has an entry (#407) in the Encyclopedia of American Loons. The summary is:

    Diagnosis: Apparently the embodiment of the Discovery Institute’s research philosophy, Weikart is enormously influential, and work of his kind continues to swamp the market despite its dishonesty, fact-distortions, ignorance and bias, and covert or overt references pops up again and again, regardless of how often they are refuted.

  23. nicky
    Posted March 29, 2018 at 11:44 pm | Permalink

    I already considered the trope that Hitler was somehow inspired by Darwin a red flag (a bit like ‘Uranium one’ in connection with HRC): this is fully debunked BS, and more BS is to be expected, nay, inevitably follows.
    However, I haven’t yet seen such a thorough debunking as done by Bob Richards. Thank you for that! As a nice side effect he also ‘exonerates’ Ernst Haeckel.

  24. Markus
    Posted March 30, 2018 at 4:06 am | Permalink

    So, according to that logic, it follows 90 % of young Czechs – atheists – can’t find meaning in life. Or 80+ % of young Swedish. And so on. Terrible logic.

  25. sensorrhea
    Posted March 30, 2018 at 8:29 am | Permalink

    The Federalist is garbage sitting somewhere between Breitbart and Alex Jones. Ignore it.

  26. Posted March 30, 2018 at 11:00 am | Permalink

    These debates never go to the point that they are clear. When somebody defends the Christian “purpose” of life, I start by asking what that is. Many stutter and stop there. I continue by saying that it really can have nothing to do with what we do on Earth because only a tiny, tiny, infinitesimally small portion of our lives is on Earth. The rest is in Heaven or Hell. Assuming those in Heaven are the ones who embrace their god’s purpose for life, what do they do. Apparently they spend an eternity praising their god and keeping him company.

    So, the purpose of life is to supply sycophants who will keep him company. And he created humans for this purpose? This is sick and shows their god to be needy, infantile, and insecure.

    So, if they want to criticize my “purpose for living” (I have none) they need to start by putting their’s on the table for discussion also.

  27. Simon
    Posted March 30, 2018 at 12:23 pm | Permalink

    Just to interrupt the echo chamber, here are a couple of reviews of Richard Weikart’s, “From Darwin to Hitler” you might not enjoy.

    https://academic.oup.com/ahr/article/110/2/566/28511

    https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/ba3e/98901909583f0db7a0d198dab39c08e9941f.pdf

    • Posted March 30, 2018 at 12:29 pm | Permalink

      Did you read the commenting rules? You manage to get two pieces of snark in there, which are unnecessary, and you don’t say anything about Bob Richard’s far longer and more complete analysis of Darwinism and Hitler. I’m putting up the reviews, but you’d better learn to be civil–perhaps on some other website before you pollute this one.

  28. Kevin Lawson
    Posted March 30, 2018 at 4:20 pm | Permalink

    We can compare the relative merits of religious dogma and personal imagination as sources of meaning, but isn’t all this irrelevant and obviated by the deterministic nature of reality? Let’s start with a microcosmic perspective: Once someone has hit the cue ball, the final resting spot for each billiard ball in the rack is determined. They will break apart, then bounce off the rails and each other and eventually stop in a particular position that was already inevitable as soon as the cue ball left the cue stick with a particular vector.

    Now sure, there could be an earthquake, or a bird who flies in an open window and drops a load on the pool table, but such events are also rolling balls whose motions and effects are pre-determined. That which will happen next is the immutable effect of that which is happening now, which is the result of everything in the past. Once the Big Bang started, all that followed was necessarily going to happen exactly as it did; nothing is random.

    How can there be “meaning” if this is true? Meaning is about a verb; it implies someone with agency and intent. Perhaps there was a “meaner,” a god who created the laws of thermos dynamics and packed the elements of the Big Bang purposefully in such a way that everything that has been transpiring subsequently is a reflection of what s/he meant to happen. Or maybe there is no such “meaner,” but either way, do individual humans have any room to “mean” for things to happen? Can we choose to have agency and purpose, can we manifest a free will? Is it possible to interrupt inevitability by putting a hand in the way of a moving ball?

    For the pure determinist, any such decision is already inevitable because even our thoughts are rolling balls, bouncing as they do because of events put into play long before we came into existence. I don’t see a compelling counter-argument and it seems that “meaning” is an illusion. I don’t like the idea of god-sourced meaning, and I prefer the idea of a freewill choice to do the things that feel meaningful as an expression of who I happen to be, but I’m not sure that there really is ANY meaning to be had.


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