Meaning in the Universe?

Those who hold that all that exists is matter and energy ultimately must maintain that everything is explained through physics and chemistry and that there is no ultimate cause or purpose in the universe. Things are the way they are because of a long series of chance occurrences. Cornelius Van Til is quoted as having said the following in relation to the materialists view of chance:

If you have a bottomless sea of Chance, and if you, as an individual, are but a bit of chance, by chance distinguished from other bits of chance, and if the law of contradiction has by chance grown within you, the imposition of this law on your environment is, granted it could take place, a perfectly futile activity.

What Van Til is saying is that to the one who denies the existence of God, the only option left is that things are the way they are because of chance, and that there is no purpose in the universe. Even such basic principles as the law of contradiction (sometimes called law of noncontradiction) cannot be trusted, for it too arose in our minds due to chance.

It gets worse. In a purely materialist universe, the mind that holds meaning is at best an emergent property, in the same way electromagnetism is an emergent property. Pure materialists hold that mind is an illusion, and all we really have are brain functions, which again arose by chance. So to the materialist, meaning is at best an illusion, a chance occurrence similar to seeing pictures in the clouds. We cannot even apply basic reason to the world, for such things as the law of noncontradiction only occurred to us by chance. In fact, all of what we know in the world is the way it is but by randomness, which could be otherwise. Van Til’s comment was to include all knowledge in this doubt.

However, chance is a bit of a misnomer. Nothing truly happens by chance, for chance is not a causal force. Chance is but an explanation of an effect. If a man rolls a pair of dice, the numbers are said to arise by chance, but this not true. The numbers arise due to the force applied by the man, the angle he releases them, the force he applies, the surface friction on the table, air pressure in the room, and other factors. So chance is not a causal force, and philosophically-inclined materialists are forced to use the phrase “causally closed” indicating that all events in the world are not chance, but one big endless series of causes. One can imagine some sort of endless series of dominoes, knocking each other over, round and round in endless circles.

But regardless of the existence of chance or causal closedness, the materialist is locked into a world without meaning, without purpose, without any true end in mind. Our illusion of consciousness arises, lasts for a while, then disappears.

Christians, however, have an ultimate goal, a loving relationship with each other and with a loving God. We can have the peace of knowing relationships with our loved ones will last, and our existence has meaning and purpose. In the end, love wins out over all.

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About humblesmith

Christian Apologist & Philosopher
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6 Responses to Meaning in the Universe?

  1. portal001 says:

    I wouldn’t say chance – cause and effect. If all exists is matter and energy then this doesn’t necessarily mean events are random. Even if the universe didn’t begin with Conscious Intent, I dont think things would be then merely chance.

  2. portal001 says:

    or to put in another way, if a tree falls in the woods and an all powerful Intention didn’t cause this then how did it fall? Wouldn’t it involve a whole lot of factors all interacting together eg: weather, age of tree, soil, erosion, type of tree, animal interference ect. so what actually caused the tree to fall, was it just chance, or the outcome of cause and effect? I think this is the case whether there was an Ultimate Intension for the tree felling or not.

  3. Mike says:

    Well, your argument comes from the depth of the human ignorance in this subject as all our explanations regarding the birth of the universe and the emergence of a form of intelligence to contemplate it have large holes in them. Yes we do ho have a firm explanation for that, we have theories and suppositions. But even if there was a God, his presence complicates things rather than helping us understand it.

    If the universe was desined the way it it, then it sure was done by a non perfect designer… Look at the human body for example:

    We do not see harmfull ultraviolet sun rays
    We have only one orifice to breathe, eat, and drink, which have caused death to kids chocking to death
    We have a sewage system mixed with an entertaining organ all in one, which increase the chance of getting
    The list of defects goes on and on, and if you attribute it to a designer then he must have been negligent asshole if we were the purpose for this universe to

    Besides, this creator has created viruses and bacteria that might kill its host. Think of all the diseases we know about and now have vaccines for them, why would a loving God create them? So that you can get infected and die?

    9 million human kids die each year before reaching the age of 5. This means a Tsunami (like that of 2004 that killed 250000 people) every 10 days roughly (around 10000 kids die each hour roughly) and God is silent! A silent God is either incapable of preventing things from killing 250000 humans every 10 days, or he is malevolent.

    No matter was the theory on God, for me, it is better to stick with science rather than God. At least science helps people and try to enhance their life standards… God is just silent… Waiting for you to dies to judge you for eternity for something you have done in a mere glance of time. That is pathetic.

    So my friend, back to the question on how did life emerge and who created the universe, the best humble answer is the scientific answer:
    “We don’t know exactly”
    But we postulate theories that might be wrong, totally or partially wrong. We are on the track to unlock the secrets of the universe… Will we ever succeed? Who knows? And this is the driver of human curiosity and excellence

    Mike

    • humblesmith says:

      I honestly can’t see how any of this relates to the post. Part of this comment is about the problem of evil, which I have dealt with elsewhere. Search for evil in the search box.

  4. Cornelius Van Til says “If you have a bottomless sea of Chance, and if you, as an individual, are but a bit of chance, by chance distinguished from other bits of chance, and if the law of contradiction has by chance grown within you, the imposition of this law on your environment is, granted it could take place, a perfectly futile activity.”

    What does he mean by chance? Is he talking odds? Randomness? It’s best to be specific here, apologists have a long history of misusing this word to bamboozle believers.
    Is he seriously suggesting we impose the laws of logic upon reality? Is it not more accurate to say these laws (like the law of non-contradiction, or the law of identity) are part* of reality that we have recognised?

    Humblesmith says “the only option left is that things are the way they are because of chance”

    Cough cough, necessity!

    “We cannot even apply basic reason to the world”

    But we can as the world is reasonable, and could not be any other way.

    “for such things as the law of noncontradiction only occurred to us by chance”

    Or that is how reality is, and we noticed.

    “all of what we know in the world is the way it is but by randomness”

    Can you name me one random process? I can’t think of one. You might get away with proton decay but that seems like an argument from our ignorance. In fact you recognise this in the following paragraph, which seems to render all the waffling about chance irrelevant.

    “But regardless of the existence of chance or causal closedness, the materialist is locked into a world without meaning, without purpose, without any true end in mind. Our illusion of consciousness arises, lasts for a while, then disappears.”

    That’s fine. Personal I find temporal meaning to be at least, it not more than, as meaningful as absolute meaning.

    “Christians, however, have an ultimate goal, a loving relationship with each other and with a loving God. We can have the peace of knowing relationships with our loved ones will last, and our existence has meaning and purpose. In the end, love wins out over all.”

    And it looks exactly as if Christians are pretending this to be true. I guess it depends upon what you place greater value, apprehending the world as it appears or in a way that keeps you happy.

    * A necessary part too, upon which all things (including gods) must be contingent.

  5. Well stated. The materialist lives each day pretending his life has meaning, value, and purpose, which are precluded by his worldview. The Noble lie entails cognitive dissonance at best; utter delusion at worst.

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