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← Debate: Does the Universe have a purpose?

Debate: Does the Universe have a purpose? - Comments

Maverick515's Avatar Comment 1 by Maverick515

The universe is rock, rubble, and lot of hydrogen. It acts in ways that follow the natural laws of physics, as we see them. The question 'does it have a purpose' only makes sense in the context of humanity.

Yeah, no, I don't think it does have a purpose. I think it's there, and it moves and reacts predictably. I think it had a beginning that can be explained by high-end theoretical physics that I don't understand.

A purpose implies a designer. Which, thanks to the king of awesome, Mr. Dawkins, I realize is imaginary. No designer, no purpose. Simple enough, I think.

Sat, 20 Nov 2010 06:25:50 UTC | #550278

helen sotiriadis's Avatar Comment 2 by helen sotiriadis

listening now to craig.
burden of proof, craig?

wolpe: anthropic principle.... and physical laws are somehow equated with decrees. the universe has a purpose, thus a purpose-er... a banana argument, if i ever saw one. and dogma: believe when you believe.

Sat, 20 Nov 2010 06:30:18 UTC | #550281

kraut's Avatar Comment 3 by kraut

what an inane question - who are we to answer that? We don't even know how the damn thing works and we ask for a purpose?

Sat, 20 Nov 2010 06:53:17 UTC | #550286

helen sotiriadis's Avatar Comment 4 by helen sotiriadis

geivett: goddidit. god god god...

Sat, 20 Nov 2010 06:54:04 UTC | #550287

Metch's Avatar Comment 5 by Metch

Same old fallacy spewing faith-junkies deluded by their childish emotional attachment to comforting bronze age myths. Evil is not an object force in the universe, it's a label we put on actions which cause suffering. Honestly, how long will it take for a consciousness shift which has the apologists admitting their arguments are flawed. Perhaps they never will, in which case religion will fade out gradually over time as each generation becomes less and less religious. Perhaps religion will simply become outdated, like VHS tapes.

Sat, 20 Nov 2010 07:07:08 UTC | #550289

Steve Zara's Avatar Comment 6 by Steve Zara

I think this was a difficult topic for debate, because, as Kaku says, it's undecidable. Hypothetically, our universe could have been made by some advanced civilisation to study evolution. I think it's unlikely, but it's possible and undecidable.

Of course, the question was not really "does the Universe have a purpose?" but "is there a purpose for us that we should care about?"

The answer to that is very clear - no. We are here by accident, unless people like Lane Craig want us to assume that many events such as the dinosaur-killer impact were deliberate.

I really liked Richard's mention of Darwin as showing how science addresses mysteries. I liked it because it is the perfect example of why we should not tolerate any use of God to answer scientific questions:

"God" is not the alternative to a scientific mystery, because "God" is never an answer. "God" isn't even the kind of thing that could be an answer. Because "God" isn't the answer to the question of what happened. "God" is an attempt to answer the silly question - "why did it happen?".

The only way we can find out what happened is through science, and "what happened" is the question we really want answered. Saying "God did it" is not an answer to that question - it's replacing mechanism with motive. If you are asking how the universe got started, the response "God wanted it to" is useless.

Sat, 20 Nov 2010 07:08:24 UTC | #550291

Roedy's Avatar Comment 7 by Roedy

I once asked the universe if it had a purpose. It told me that it did not have an inherent one, but that I was free to assign it one. This was good news. A purpose I assigned myself would surely be more pleasing than a one-size-fits all.

Purpose implies for the benefit of someone/something. The purpose of people, to earthworms, is to cultivate trees to drop leaves for them to eat.

Sat, 20 Nov 2010 07:13:38 UTC | #550292

hypnoticbob's Avatar Comment 8 by hypnoticbob

As usual, the superstitious assert, not only without quantifiable or qualitative evidence, and contrary to human experience, the universe to have purpose (i.e., there must be an eternal and personal entity which begat the universe so that we may be [essentially] tested and deemed worthy of the same eternity). First, regardless of my disagreement (to phrase it parsimoniously), the superstitious here are very well spoken. They articulate(d) their points very well, even during their most heinous and ridiculous axiom-like vernacular. Secondly, I certainly do not think that I was the only one of the 'audience' that heard the way that the burden of proof is apparently not on those disposed to believe and assert that this purposeful entity (which thus gives the universe purpose) must exist (because we are here to ponder ourselves), but on those who defend the opposite viewpoint (based upon the great lack of evidences to the contrary). Lastly, even if one were to suppose that our experience should tell us that the universe must have a grand designer, because the complexity we observe through the lens of science apparently alludes to it, we could no sooner indicate that a personal god should be the one to exist, let alone any of the current (or past) religions' gods. At best only a deistic god should be thought to exist, but even this pushes the envelope much too far without a firm basis or explanation that religion cannot and (dare I say?) will never be able to grasp. I think that all atheists, or in my case, as in Christopher Hitchens', all anti-theists would 'believe' in a grand designer if only there were sufficient evidence to affirm it. For those whom have any dignity, we have a duty to halt these mislead sheep, and their followers, every step of the way. Remember: they are making explicit claims about reality which are not conducive to well being of life, even if some of the effects of religiosity is falsely consoling.

Sat, 20 Nov 2010 07:19:34 UTC | #550295

hypnoticbob's Avatar Comment 9 by hypnoticbob

Comment 6 by Steve Zara :

Hypothetically, our universe could have been made by some advanced civilisation to study evolution. I think it's unlikely, but it's possible and undecidable.

Firstly, I agree with the possibility of this premise, and with your following opinion. Secondly, and perhaps I (we?) are being pedantic, but something like this is exactly what I would liked to have heard from any one of the opponents of the designed universe hypothesis. The superstitious claimed (or at the very least, implied) that only two axioms must exist in the context of this argument. Clearly the superstitious have not thought this through quite enough.

Sat, 20 Nov 2010 07:39:03 UTC | #550303

helen sotiriadis's Avatar Comment 10 by helen sotiriadis

completely disappointed by kaku.

Sat, 20 Nov 2010 07:48:11 UTC | #550310

Anaximander's Avatar Comment 11 by Anaximander

To observe the purpose of X from inside X is very difficult. Do we know where our universe is going to in the Multiverse? Do we even know where we are going?

Sat, 20 Nov 2010 07:52:07 UTC | #550315

hypnoticbob's Avatar Comment 12 by hypnoticbob

Reflecting on my agreement to Steve's comment, Matt Ridley did, however, say "...it's simply wrong to say that we've agreed that the universe will have a purpose if [a] god exists." That statement was very succinct. It certainly implies at least a third option (the deistic hypothesis). Steve's example (reminiscent of Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy) of the advanced civilization which creates a universe to study evolution still makes it apparent that this universe has a particular purpose.

Sat, 20 Nov 2010 07:57:22 UTC | #550319

Anaximander's Avatar Comment 13 by Anaximander

Steve's example (reminiscent of Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy) of the advanced civilization which creates a universe to study evolution still makes it apparent that this universe has a particular purpose.

What if they made it accidentally?

Sat, 20 Nov 2010 08:15:00 UTC | #550325

Schrodinger's Cat's Avatar Comment 14 by Schrodinger's Cat

Comment 6 by Steve Zara

We are here by accident

Strange that you have to use a negative teleogical statement ( accident....something not 'meant' to happen ) in order to refute a teleogical notion.

We are an implicit emergent phenomenon....no less than the trees, stars, periodic table, black holes or anything else. You can be an accident if you like......personally I'm proud to be an intrinsic part of it all.

The potential for all the complex phenomenon within the universe existed right from the start. In the absence of any evidence whatever that any other universe exists.....I think it would be more unscientific not to wonder why.

Sat, 20 Nov 2010 08:17:34 UTC | #550326

Steve Zara's Avatar Comment 15 by Steve Zara

Comment 13 by Anaximander

What if they made it accidentally?

Having thought about this a bit, I'm not sure that the universe "having" an attribute like "purpose" makes any sense philosophically. The universe isn't really a "thing", it's more like an arena in which "things" happen.

Sat, 20 Nov 2010 08:23:16 UTC | #550329

Rawhard Dickins's Avatar Comment 16 by Rawhard Dickins

Looney alert !!!!! . . . Beep! Beep! Beep! Beep!

Sat, 20 Nov 2010 08:25:38 UTC | #550330

rjohn19's Avatar Comment 17 by rjohn19

First, let me say this was ruined to a large degree by the moderator- a totally self-absorbed, supercillious putz, if ever there was one.

Second, Mitzi CaCa can take a flying leap of faith for all I care. For a man of science, he is hopelessly deluded in thinking it's what we know of science or it's a god. When it comes to the "or it's a ___" part, he and theists automatically fill in the blank with a god when the blank should be filled in with "infinite possibilities" of which a theistic god is only one puny and highly improbable solution.

Since they didn't get around to it in the debate, I'll answer the question for the panel.

The purpose of the universe is entropy, randomly interrupted by fleeting periods of cognitive dissonance.

Sat, 20 Nov 2010 08:32:03 UTC | #550331

cixelsyd5's Avatar Comment 18 by cixelsyd5

What a very strange way to conduct a debate. With all the silly videos, the big boxing ring and the more than annoying moderator, I should say interrupter, the atheist side was able to bring up some very important points. I was, however, deeply disappointed by Michio Kaku. I watch him all the time on T.V. and love seeing his physics shows. I am just surprised at several of his answers. One thing Kaku did bring up that has always been a troubling question for me is the question of "Where did String Theory come from?" We accuse the theists of using god as an explanation because it begs the question of where did the god come from. Well, while any sort of god is a completely silly and useless explanation for how everything came about, I don't see how String Theory, or any other sort of theory that tries to explain the Big Bang, escapes the same question of where did String Theory come from? How did those absolutely tiny vibrating strings come into existence? Now, while that is obviously no reason to assert that god did it, any scientific solution to the question of how the strings came into existence will immediately beg the same question. Theory X is how or what made those strings come into being. Well, how did that theory or the mechanisms of that theory, whatever it may end up being, get started? Well, Theory XX is how Theory X is explained. Well, then what explains Theory XX? And so it goes on and on. So is the argument that these explanations could go into infinite regress a valid argument? I don't know. I do know that it does not even begin to imagine proving anything about a god, but, it is an important question that I have been struggling with for some time. Is there even any evidence at all that supports String Theory? I'm not sure. As some have said, we may never know the answer. We may just have to be satisfied with not knowing. But that is up to scientists to discover, not me. Any ideas or thoughts on this question or anything else would be greatly appreciated. Thanks.

Ben

Sat, 20 Nov 2010 08:43:20 UTC | #550334

Schrodinger's Cat's Avatar Comment 19 by Schrodinger's Cat

Comment 15 by Steve Zara

Having thought about this a bit, I'm not sure that the universe "having" an attribute like "purpose" makes any sense philosophically.

If I get up and make a coffe....that's a 'purpose'.....but I'll be damned if any scientist would notice any 'purpose' particles, or indeed anything other than normal physics, going on in my brain.

So if one could not even detect human purpose in the lab.....what hope does one ever have of detecting a universal purpose.

It's another of those things like multiple universes....which are undetectable even if they DO exist.

Sat, 20 Nov 2010 08:49:02 UTC | #550337

floresjesse23's Avatar Comment 20 by floresjesse23

A very strange way to conduct a debate. Just as someone was about to make a point, the moderator would interrupt. I wish they would have invited Lawrence Krauss instead of Michio Kaku.

Sat, 20 Nov 2010 09:04:24 UTC | #550341

Chris Roberts's Avatar Comment 21 by Chris Roberts

Is this just a symptom of animism? If so, I agree with Tyler:

... that such a view is "childish" and typical of "cognitive underdevelopment", and that it was therefore common in "primitive" peoples such as those living in hunter gatherer societies.

This isn't supposed to be an insult, although it does come across as a little shrill and strident.

Perhaps such an empathic response is deeply rooted in our basic psychology, and maybe animals look at the world the same way?

Sat, 20 Nov 2010 09:12:18 UTC | #550344

hypnoticbob's Avatar Comment 22 by hypnoticbob

Comment 13 by Anaximander :

Steve's example (reminiscent of Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy) of the advanced civilization which creates a universe to study evolution still makes it apparent that this universe has a particular purpose.

What if they made it accidentally?

I found this question humorous; not at the slyness of it as real follow-up question to the original premise, but because I think that it would truly be humorous to accidentally create a universe and then decide, "Well, it exists now, so we might as well make good use of it!"

I have often thought of this type of universe creation; more aptly stated in the form of a question: if "humankind" should survive all the unknowns yet here (will we still consider ourselves to be human?), will we have the ability (power?) to create a universe? Let's not take into mind the fact the energy required to do so would be tremendous, indeed.

Speculation is an unwieldy beast of burden.

Sat, 20 Nov 2010 09:13:00 UTC | #550345

Rawhard Dickins's Avatar Comment 23 by Rawhard Dickins

William Lane Craig: "Evil is a departure from the way things ought to be according to a design plan".

  • Nature progresses largely by means of any particular species doing their best to consume other species. That's why lions have apparently well designed teeth! What else would lions do in God's ideal world? Perhaps they could be confined only to vigorous licking.
  • Evil in the human species is a continuation of that drive, moderated only by our ability to reason. (Yes I know it ain't working too well!)

    Suffering largely occurs because we are not perfectly suited to our environment, we are only approximately evolved to suit our ever-changing surroundings. A species is always playing catch-up to some degree and that error or lag between a species' current phenotype and a perfectly suited phenotype results in suffering. For example a hare that could always outrun a fox would suffer less or perhaps an animal's ability to overcome parasites would be a better example.

    William Lane Craig doesn't live in the real world and he has the audacity to propose that God exists while putting the onus on non-beleivers to prove him wrong, it is his duty to subtantiate his proposition!

    Sat, 20 Nov 2010 09:24:35 UTC | #550347

    hypnoticbob's Avatar Comment 24 by hypnoticbob

    By far, in my opinion, the best quote of the 'show' (essentially post-debate) to be from "Henry" (does anyone have any more information on this person?):

    "Without the brain there is no color, there is no sound, there is no pain, there is no good there is no evil, there is no idea of god. As the brain evolves, as the brain evolves over the next millions or billions of years, we will embody more and more of the universe. We, the human embodies or sees and thinks and feels more about the universe than an ant, than a cat, than a monkey, than a dolphin. The brain is part of the universe. So, the universe itself has a direction, but whether there is a purpose giver from the outside is, I think, something that neither religion nor science is ever going to prove. However, I think what is absolutely clear is that the universe can give birth to a purpose regardless of how pointless."

    Beautiful, eloquent, and a general summation of my sentiments. I cannot say that I absolutely share the opinion that we cannot know if there is a "purpose giver" for our universe, but if anyone can solve it, it is the scientist.

    Sat, 20 Nov 2010 09:41:44 UTC | #550352

    Peter Grant's Avatar Comment 25 by Peter Grant

    Found an audio download:

    http://www.brianauten.com/Apologetics/debate-does-the-universe-have-a-purpose.mp3

    I'll add both to the the torrent feed in my profile once downloaded. :)

    Sat, 20 Nov 2010 09:43:31 UTC | #550353

    Richard Dawkins's Avatar Comment 26 by Richard Dawkins

    By far, in my opinion, the best quote of the 'show' (essentially post-debate) to be from "Henry" (does anybody have any more information on this person?):

    He is Henry Markram, neuroscientist, originally from South Africa, now working in Switzerland. He also gave what, to me, was the most memorable talk at the conference: a beautifully illustrated account of his stunning, very expensive, labour-intensive and computer-intensive research on constructing a computer model of the brain, neurone by neurone. Definitely a scientist to watch, I am hoping to get some material from him to post on our website.

    Richard

    Sat, 20 Nov 2010 10:00:45 UTC | #550356

    clarerethink's Avatar Comment 27 by clarerethink

    Amazing! I have never seen a debate quite like this one before! and I hope (not to god obviously)that I/we don't have to bear this circus,gameshow formatted, charade, complete with a boxing ring!(I think Dawkins struggled with that) ever again, the celestial stairways, the'gods' sitting on high, I still can't figure out what Machio Kaku's role was, but it was good to see him non-the-less and the extremely annoying moderator, who,in my opinion, was biased toward the..."My Daddy's name is God and his 'purpose' was to create the universe for me,so that my 'purpose' would be to waste my whole life worsipping him"...Brigade! but the worst part for me,(I got so angry) was the guy in the wheelchair from the audience, I had this wicked little fantasy of him being thrown into the boxing ring,and being set upon by Richard & co(with words obviously).Richard, you do endure so much for the 'purpose' of raising consciousness, but what makes your efforts so worthwhile, is hearing the likes of that young woman state that, "it is WE who hold our 'purpose', so how can the universe have any?" or words to that effect. It's a shame they didn't have a percentage of audience conversion result, like they did on the Intelligence Squared debate -Is Catholicism a force for good in the world?,where Stephen Fry + Christpher Hitchens wiped the floor with the very very awful, Anne Widdecombe and achieved a massive conversion result,So I'm certain that what you're all doing is working.

        PS Attenborough & Dawkins are my two favourite primates!
    

    Sat, 20 Nov 2010 10:19:18 UTC | #550361

    ev-love's Avatar Comment 28 by ev-love

    "It's another of those things like multiple universes....which are undetectable even if they DO exist."

    Comment 20 by Schrodinger's Cat

    Sorry to sound naïve, but why undetectable? Not trying to score a point, just want to understand....

    ev-love

    Sat, 20 Nov 2010 10:20:06 UTC | #550362

    helen sotiriadis's Avatar Comment 29 by helen sotiriadis

    Comment 29 by ev-love :

    "It's another of those things like multiple universes....which are undetectable even if they DO exist."

    Comment 20 by Schrodinger's Cat

    Sorry to sound naïve, but why undetectable? Not trying to score a point, just want to understand....

    ev-love

    undetected, yes, but perhaps not undetectable.

    i just uploaded this yesterday, about an idea by sir roger penrose:
    'before' the big bang?

    Sat, 20 Nov 2010 10:26:53 UTC | #550367

    Schrodinger's Cat's Avatar Comment 30 by Schrodinger's Cat

    Comment 29 by ev-love

    Sorry to sound naïve, but why undetectable? Not trying to score a point, just want to understand....

    Other universes within 'the multiverse' would have different laws of physics, and thus particles that would cease to exist in our universe ( and vice versa ). Thus other universes would be undetectable. That puts them pretty much in the same category as 'God'.

    Sat, 20 Nov 2010 10:32:25 UTC | #550369