On his website, "Innovating for a Secular World", iconic atheist Richard Dawkins posits the following:
"We would like to understand how to construct meaningful human lives in a world governed by the laws of nature. Some specific questions include:
(And I am including only the first three in this installment).
Free will. If people are collections of atoms obeying the laws of physics, is it sensible to say that they make choices?
Morality. What is the origin of right and wrong? Are there objective standards?
Meaning. Why live? Is there a rational justification for finding meaning in human existence?
Well, just for fun, I will offer some responses.
To the question of free will. His question includes a premise which is exclusionary: "If people are collections of atoms..." Using an unproven premise as the platform for the question negates the question, in my opinion. It is no longer pure inquiry, but rhetoric. The answer is, of course, if we are nothing more than a collection of atoms, we are mindless slaves to the laws of physics and free will is not even a notion we are capable of contemplating.
To the question of morality. He asks about the origins of right and wrong. By asking the question, he seems to be implying these two benchmarks 'exist', though to do so they must, by definition, exist outside of the scope of the natural world, since the laws of nature are what they are. Period. They are neither good, nor bad.
How can qualities such as 'right' and 'wrong' exist in a cosmos spawned by chance and governed by heartless, value-neutral natural laws? Of course right and wrong do not even exist in such a place. Right and wrong exist in the heart of man because he bears the thumbprint of his Maker, who is the quintessence of right, and who inscribed a moral code on the human heart so as to afford us a glimpse of the existential nature of right and wrong, and bidding our minds to explore its significance.
His morality follow up question is "are there objective standards?" (for right and wrong). Well, what is a standard? A 'standard', according to Merriam-Webster.com, is "something considered by an authority or by general consent as a basis of comparison; an approved model." That definition, at least, is fraught with subjectivity. 'general consent'... 'basis'... 'comparison'...'approved'.... In the purely secular realm of scientific naturalism, just how much tolerance is there for such speculative reasoning? None, I should think. I would have supposed there could only be objective standards in such an environment.
Dawkin's list then moves on to the question of meaning. 'Why live'? he asks. In the secularists' realm, that's a good question. It is perhaps best answered by asking about the ramifications of death, not for the deceased, but upon those who 'loved' them. Why are we more grieved by the death of a child than by totaling our car? Are not both just collections of atoms, held in temporary arrangements in the space-time fabric?
When you boil it all down, what people most value in life, the thing that imparts meaning to their existence, is relationship. We treasure our relationships above all else, and the love that is cultivated within them. When death terminates a relationship, and our love can no longer be given to, and received by, the one we love, we are left devastated, crippled by a gaping wound in the heart. This is not the happenstance result of evolution. It occurs because we are made for relationships, first and foremost with God. Our very propensity for relationships is a reflection of God's purpose for us, that we might experience His unfailing, unflinching, unending love in relationship with him.
"Meaning" and "life" are co-dependents living under the shelter of love. Death stings because of the damage it inflicts upon the living. Mere atomic bundles do not suffer the way human beings suffer in the soul when a loved one dies. Period.
When he further asks, "Is there a rational justification for finding meaning in human existence?", I must ask, what is rational? And who gets to define meaning? Rational in this context must refer to making a logical argument for or against the idea of meaning, but an argument is nothing but a hypothetical set of contexts and premises, because if they were already proven, there would be nothing to argue about. So what choice does an argument have but to follow the laws of nature? And it seems to me that things go all Darwinian at that point, survival of the fittest, etc. That's where meaning must be found, if it exists at all, in the naturalistic worldview. Meaning is equated with surviving long enough to pass along ones genes. That would seem to me, at least, to be the epitome of meaningless.
Next time I will offer answers to a few more of Mr. Dawkins questions.