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If man comes from random causes, life has no purpose or meaning (Talk.Origins)

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Response Article
This article (If man comes from random causes, life has no purpose or meaning (Talk.Origins)) is a response to a rebuttal of a creationist claim published by Talk.Origins Archive under the title Index to Creationist Claims.

Claim CA620:

If man arose by chance, life would have no purpose or meaning.

Source: Morris, Henry M. 1985. Scientific Creationism. Green Forest, AR: Master Books, p. 178

CreationWiki response: First we have to look at the original intent of the phrase, as well as its meaning in the context of Biblical Creation. Then we can see if Talk Origins has phrased the claim properly and dealt with it.

What Henry Morris and other creationists say, in full, is that if man and the whole process that led to him only came about by random, mindless, directionless natural forces, then life has no ultimate purpose or meaning. The key word here is "ultimate", which is synonymous with the word "objective". This means that the source of purpose for life is apart from humanity. Whether one human is here living, or gone the next day, the purpose still stands. Before humans actually came into being, that purpose prompted their existence and continues to stay with us, regardless of whether we accept that purpose or not. Also the word is "ultimate", because it describes a purpose which is above and beyond us, not in physical location but in its abstract source and nature. Its being abstract does not make it any less true, since we have laws of logic and laws of nature that are abstractions of a real order in existence.

Biblical creationists accept that an intelligent and non-physical First Cause, namely God, created the universe and all that is in it, including man, for a purpose. Thus man is here for a reason, and has a role which is imposed upon him by God, whether man chooses to accept it or not. Thus, the creation and development of the universe, life, and man was purposeful and directed, as opposed to being merely the result of random natural forces.

Now looking at the way Talk Origins phrases the claim, we can see it is a much weaker version of this intent. It limits the focus to man alone, and speaks of meaning and purpose in a way that is very indefinite. In other words, it phrases the claim in such a way that it only speaks of A meaning and A purpose, rather than THE ULTIMATE meaning and THE ULTIMATE purpose. In this way, the meaning and purpose of life can be anything and anyone's choice, which is not the intent of the creationist claim. Thus, as you will see, a significant part of Talk Origin's response is based on a subjective purpose based on the individual rather than a higher purpose. So basically, Talk Origins creates a straw man argument and deals with that rather than with the higher philosophical point which is being made.

The problem with subjective purpose and meaning based on the individual is that it is limited to that individual and those whom he or she may influence. It has no impact upon objective reality on a grand scale. Let us say you believe that your purpose and meaning is to be good. What does it matter in the grand scale of things? For every good you do, there are most likely ten other people doing crimes that hurt someone else. In fact, without objective meaning, what meaning does the "good" you intend to do have? What defines your "good"? Another person's purpose may be to destroy life and mutilate anyone who gets in his way. He cares little for anyone except himself and will do what it takes to go where he wants. Isn't that good? Is the purpose of humanity to heighten its reasoning powers and becoming as infinite in knowledge as the Creator, or is it simply to destroy itself as it appears to be doing at present? What determines this great purpose? And what good is this purpose when in the end everything dies and perishes? One evolutionist can be paraphrased as saying that the one constant thing about each group of life in the fossil record is mass extinction. There is no guarantee that we or our planet will survive. Meteors, illness, famine — there are so many factors that are out there to wipe us out that we have no control over and little understanding of. So what good is our existence if there is no purpose beyond us and our little mind games or what our individual existence means?

Basically, in a totally naturalistic universe, there is no reason why we should be here. There is no meaningful objective difference to the universe if we all die. The world carries on the same before we were born, while we live, and after we die. That is the promise of naturalism, and so there is no meaning if naturalistic evolution, cosmic, chemical, and biological, is true: NONE!

(Talk.Origins quotes in blue)

1. Purpose can come from anyone. The same object can have different purposes to different people or to the same person at different times. If you, God, or anyone else, want to do something with your life, then your life has purpose. Nothing else is relevant.

This is the subjective purpose and meaning spoken of above, the one which essentially means nothing. There is a book in the bible called Ecclesiastes where we see King Solomon searching for meaning in life. At one time he tries to attain lots of riches; at another he tries to gain wisdom and be a wise king for his people. But then he realises that no human knows whether the one who comes after him will erase all Solomon's good and wise deeds with deeds of foolishness, and squander all the wealth. He sees the crimes perpetrated by humans and puts all of his observations together, those which describe our subjective human existence; he realises that it is all vanity, futile, and meaningless on its own.

Do you notice that all sorts of humans try desperately to make their mark on the world, to do something which will outlive them? Part of the possible reason for that is because they long for something more than just this subjective existence.

Talk Origins appears just to be teaching extreme and absolute subjectivism, which is not surprising since the worldview most prominent on their website is naturalism — that nature is our only objective means of knowing anything. With the supernatural and God thus rejected, all that is left is ultimate meaninglessness, so extreme subjectivity is the logical conclusion and it must be pushed and preached. But, as has been shown, it is self-refuting, meaning no more than a blade of grass before the lawnmower of real life, which will come across you whether you wish it or not, and then pass you by as if you never existed.

What is Talk Origins saying when it says "if you, God, or anyone else, want to do something with your life...? So "if you want to do something with your life, your life has a purpose." That statement makes sense in a subjective context. "If God wants to do something with your life, then your life has a purpose." This statement makes sense in the theistic context, but that is inconsistent with the point Talk Origins is supposed to be making. "If anyone else wants to do something with your life..." This statement is a puzzling one. Is Talk Origins admitting that all that matters in life is the greater will, in the battle of subjective wills, meanings and purposes? So if a bully, manipulator, tyrant, or murderer wants to do something with your life, then your life has a purpose? That is a fearful but true statement in a subjective naturalistic world, which Talk Origins preaches. In each case, your purpose is to be a victim and it is determined by someone equal to you in nature (a human), but other than you as well.

This subjective meaning is destructive to humanity and anything it touches.

2. Purpose is not determined by origins. Things can have purpose even if their origin is due to chance. The North Star, for example, came to its position by chance, but people still find a purpose for it.

The statement that purpose is not determined by origins is incorrect. Purpose implies intention and aim. If we look at computers built by humans, and nests built by birds, the purpose of each of these things is determined by its originator. A nest is intended to house the chicks and it is determined by the "will", the need-driven instinct, of the bird that makes it. A computer was originally intended to run programs to do higher mathematics and logical calculations, and that purpose was determined by the people who built it. Now supposing another person wishes to use the purposefully designed assemblage for something else, that does not negate the original, and most likely the optimal purpose for that construct.

Now the statement that the North Star came to its position by chance is not an objectively true statement, but a subjective metaphysical one based on a religious idea which is used to interpret evidence. To clarify, it is a statement founded on the philosophy that there was no universal guiding principle at the creation of the universe, neither is there one guiding it now, i.e. naturalism. Using that religio-philosophical assumption, one can interpret the evidence from the stars to say that a naturalistic Big Bang is true. If there was an intelligent guiding or creating principle, i.e., the Creator, there is a reason why the North Star is in the North, which "coincidentally", or perhaps, purposefully helps us discern direction on this planet and, in astronomy, our view of the stars. If the universe has no purpose, there is no reason for there to be any North Star. It would be more likely for there to be a space with a random speckling of stars, and one would have to guess the exact North position. A person may ask, how can it be known what is more likely? Because there are more possibilities with a view of the north part of the sky with no closely fixed star, than the possibilities of an easily visible star being at or so minutely close to the North position.

Here is another point about origin and purpose. If we were created by God, as described in Genesis, that does give us a purpose, one which he declares, for example when he says that we should be fruitful and multiply, and that we should rule over all living organisms (Genesis 1). We should take care of all life, judge right and wrong on the basis of his character and precepts, and should also obey him and acknowledge that he is the Creator (e.g. Genesis 2; Genesis 9). Let us first remember that purpose does mean intent and intention and aim. Thus origin, especially origins derived from an intelligent originator, does determine purpose. Remember too that a naturalistic universe has no mind and thus has no aim or intention, therefore anything originating from that universe is ultimately purposeless.

3. Like most people, virtually all creationists already acknowledge that people arise by chance. In the process of sexual recombination, it is chance that determines which genes come from each parent; thus chance determines the genetics that make us who we are.

There is no reason to believe Talk Origins statement that virtually all creationists acknowledge that people arise by chance because of sexual recombination, and by making this whole statement, Talk Origins, once again, steps into their own philosophy and pulls out their own belief about the nature of people. The writer of this Talk Origins response appears to expect us to believe that he knows all the forces, seen and unseen, that are at work in the creation of a child. He has already excluded a vastly higher knowledge operating here, namely God's. According to him, it is only chance that determines which genes come from each parent. But this again is only a conclusion based on naturalism. There are verses in the book of Psalms in the Bible, and other places, which point to YHWH, the Creator of heaven and earth, having a hand in the formation of a child (e.g. Psalms 139:13-16; Job 10:9-12; 31:15; Jer 1:5). It is only chance to Talk Origins because they automatically deny God's hand in natural processes.

Also, due to his philosophical adherence to the naturalistic faith, he says that genetics makes us WHO we are. Now genetics may determine how we are formed, and our body shape and chemistry, but that doesn't necessarily make us who we are, but rather what we are. It may make up our physical characteristics, but not necessarily our abstract, non-physical characteristics such has personality and intellect. Talk Origins simply comes from a strictly naturalistic, reductionist world view.

This does introduce the difficult topic of the foreknowledge of the Creator due to his immense knowledge, free will and supposed random forces, and the Creator's intervention to cause events to happen, but all that really shows is a limitation in our knowledge in comparison to that of God who has created and who constantly regulates the universe.

4. The theory of evolution most emphatically does not say that humans arose purely by chance.

Evolutionists try to emphasize the word, selection, in the phrase, natural selection, in order to make it seem as if that puts direction in their evolutionary history, thus making it non-random and thus not purely by chance. But this is not the case.

When we talk of natural selection, we are talking about the differential survival of organisms with different traits. Genetic mutations supposedly provide the means for an organism to change from one kind, e.g. bacteria, to another, e.g. a fish or trilobite, or even a human. The constraints of the environment and competition for resources will sift out those mutations that will cause a better-adapted organism to survive and thus reproduce more of that organism which retains that mutation. Over time, more mutations accumulate to form everything from bananas to humans, from multi-cellular organisms to dinosaurs. But there is a problem with this.

Nature has no consciousness, and thus doesn't recognise itself, nor is it aware of anything that inhabits it. Having no mind, it is therefore mindless. If there is no mind, then there is no intended direction, no foresight, no decision making process, no plan nor purpose, only matter. No mind, just matter. There is no law in matter or nature that says that better adapted creatures must survive, since a good number of natural disasters can destroy any and all living creatures. Thus any "selection" by external natural forces, such as natural disasters, death, geological processes, volcanoes, illnesses and epidemics, the lack of control of surrounding predators and needed foods, is undirected and thus random, which means lacking any plan, order, or purpose.

When it comes to the mutations proposed by evolutionists, they also have no mind and no law saying that they should go in any direction towards mankind or beyond. The forces that work on the gene pool of a given population of an organism are restricted to the limits of that gene pool. It has been observed that you cannot get viruses or multi-cellular organisms to sprout fins or scales or lungs, because they don't have that information incorporated in their genetic code. Mutations are random, and the vast majority of them are either harmful or neutral; therefore they cannot account for the changes between different kinds of animals.

Basically, all the forces operating in evolution are random, even natural "selection". The mindlessness of nature and the forces called by the evolutionists, internal or external, cannot account for the origin or the hypothetical vast increase in genetic information that would be directed to become us, humanity.

To conclude, the writer of Ecclesiastes determines that life is given meaning by an objective source which will be paraphrased with the following: stand in awe of your creator and do what he says (Eccl 12:13). By actively acknowledging God the Creator in daily life, a person will fulfill a role that is greater than him or her, and thus find an ultimate meaning and purpose for their life, while also pursuing the own goals in the constraints of His moral law.