Wednesday, June 29, 2005

The Meaning of Life

A long time ago (in an archived blog post far, far away) I posted a link about the wave of awe that hit me when I got a glimpse of just how big the universe is. Someone responded by saying something like, "What are you saying, the universe is so big that we don't matter to God!!?!!!one! Nuh-uh!!"

I never got around to publicly rolling my eyes at the nervous defensiveness of that comment, but I was reminded of it when I read this excerpt at Pharyngula quoting Townhall columnist Dennis Prager:

Nature has been created for man's use; and on its own, without man, it has no meaning....When man is reduced to being part of the natural world, his status is reduced to that of a dolphin. It is one of the great ironies of the contemporary world that humanists render human life largely worthless while God-centered Jews and Christians render human life infinitely sacred. Man's worth is entirely dependent on a God-based view of the world. Without God, man is another part of the ecosystem, and often a lousy one at that.
Hm, perhaps Dennis Prager doesn't actually know the definition of the word "humanist?" And, what, if "without God" humanity is just another part of the ecosystem, does introducing God into the picture somehow place humans outside earth's ecosystem?

PZ Myers ably heaps some much-deserved scorn on Prager's nonsense:
His irony is a fabrication; humanists don't regard human life as worthless. Rather, one life in the here and now is all we get, and it is infinitely valuable. Furthermore, we don't need to boost our fragile self-esteem by deprecating everything else—dolphins are great and beautiful creatures, as are spiders and sea anemones and scrub pines and E. coli. The universe is a wonderful place, huge and complex and diverse and largely independent of my existence, and I am greatly privileged to be one small but precious voice singing in a mighty cosmic choir. Embracing the majesty of existence does not make me a smaller man.
Exact-diddly-actly. Seriously, I don't understand the barely-hidden panic behind this. The image of humanity as merely one part of the cosmos is hardly a new idea, nor, in fact, an idea absent from the Hallowed Bible Itself, as Josh Rosenau points out in his posting of some choice excerpts from the book of Job.