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Sunday, December 21, 2014

Letter: Without God, goodness and morality have no meaning


Regarding the letter by Caedmon Holland published in the February 4 issue of the Daily Lobo, the writer championed rationality and the scientific process, and claimed that there is no “rational reason to believe in God,” nor is a belief in God necessary to “…lead a good, moral life.” Consider first that the scientific process, by definition, has inherent limitations, imperfections and rules. The process is limited to observable, or testable, phenomena of the physical universe; and it is advanced in a feedback-loop between the collection of data through observation and experimentation, and the interpretation of data through mathematical/statistical analyses and reasoned theorizing: the two parts forming an indissoluble whole. The process is imperfect at any given moment because our ability to gather and interpret data is limited by our knowledge, technology and reasoning ability.

And finally, the process must obey the rules of mathematical logic, such as “absence of evidence is not evidence of absence” and “correlation is not causation,” etc. These rules are as inviolable as the speed of light. Consider next the proposition that a belief in God – meaning the existence of God—is not necessary to lead a good, moral life. If this is true, if the entire universe, including humanity, is only the result of random interactions of matter and energy occurring through the immensities of space-time beginning from a purely natural origin-of-origins, then the universe has neither meaning nor purpose. In fact, even the terms “meaning” and “purpose,” or “moral” and “good” have no intrinsic meaning.

Without God, notions of meaning or goodness or morality are just fictions arising from a long process of random interactions which somehow increased the ability of our ancestors to survive and reproduce to the present day. No less, but no more. The deductive mathematical logic is inexorable, and inescapable.

Without God, we can’t say that certain things are “moral” or “good”, only that we consider or deem them, by authoritarian fiat or democratic consensus, useful or desirable for such-and-such reason(s) at the present moment in space-time.

But this is ethics, not morality, because ethics is whatever we say it is. We can’t even say that these things will enable future survival and reproduction, however much we know or theorize about their usefulness for such in the past or present. Perhaps what we now call “hate” or “greed” or “selfishness” will be the evolutionary psychological fictions by which, in future, individuals survive and reproduce, and thereby allow our species to adapt and thrive. So, having evolved by random chance to the point of being able to rationally recognize these things as fictions—however useful or desirable they may be in our current estimation—how can we still “believe” in them as intrinsically valuable against the conclusions of “rational reason”?

If we believe there is no God, but we still pretend that existence has meaning and purpose, then we are doing exactly what Caedmon Holland’s letter accuses those who believe in God of doing: willfully living in a fairytale of our own making.

Kelly Moe

UNM student