What does the end of the universe tell us about the meaning of life?

Details of a recent scientific discovery from the Canberra Times.

Excerpt:

The universe is running out of usable energy and the end is nearer than expected, according to Australian National University astronomers.

[…]PhD student Chas Egan and his supervisor Charley Lineweaver from the ANU Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics calculated how run-down the universe was and found it was 30 times more dilapidated than previously thought.

In doing so they measured the universe’s entropy a gauge of how ”disorderly” the cosmos is and how close it is to its cold, lifeless end.

[…]Mr Egan said all the processes that occurred in the universe increased its entropy.

”When you leave any isolated system it gets more and more disorderly,” he said.

[…]Scientists believe that end will take the form of a ”heat death”.

”All the matter currently in stars and planets will be spread out homogenously through space and it will be cold and dark and nothing will be able to live and no processes will go on.

More details of the discovery from the Australian newspaper The Age.

Excerpt:

The findings, to be published in the Astrophysical Journal, have implications not just for Earthlings but for any extraterrestrial life as well.

”We’re not just talking about our solar system or our galaxy, we’re talking about our universe,” he said.

”These constraints apply to all life forms that might be in the universe.”

What implications does this discovery have on the question of meaning and purpose in life? If nothing that we do now will survive the end of the universe, then what reason do we have to do anything?

Atheist and Christian responses to the end of the universe

We can get BOTH SIDES of the question from this clip of a formal debate featuring Christian scholar William Lane Craig and atheist writer Christopher Hitchens.

The question being debated is: “Is there objective meaning and purpose in life without God?”. Hitchens and Craig agree that without God, the universe will cool down and all life will die. And they both agree that if there is no God, then there is no objective meaning and purpose in life.

Hitchens says that he can arbitrarily choose a purpose for his life that makes him happy and fulfilled. But notice that this purpose is an arbitrary personal preference. Someone who chooses mass murder or slavery, and has the power to carry it out with impunity, has as much right to choose that purpose as Hitchens does to choose his.

What can we conclude from the atheist view of purpose and meaning?

What does it say about atheism that there is no way to distinguish between William Wilberforce and Josef Stalin? They were both just doing what made them happy, and there is no way either of them ought to have acted, and no objective moral standard by which to praise or condemn them. Some people admire Wilberforce. Some people admire Stalin. No one is right or wrong, because the choice of life purpose is arbitrary, on atheism. So long as you are happy, and the majority of people in your time and place applaud you, anything is permissible.

What would you think of a person whose every action is designed to maximize their pleasurable feelings in this life? What would you make of a person who believed that other people were just bags of atoms, with no human rights and no free will? What would you make of a person who thought that other people were just objects to be used (or dispersed) in whatever way made them feel happiest? What does a selfish attitude do to enterprises like marriage and parenting?

Is it any surprise that we have killed 50 million unborn babies as a result of our own irresponsible search for pleasure? Sex is fun, but taking responsibility for the decision to have sex is not fun. So we kill innocent people who are weaker than us in order to maximize our pleasure in this life. And why not? On atheism, there is no objective meaning in life, no objective purpose to life, and no objective moral standard of right and wrong.

8 thoughts on “What does the end of the universe tell us about the meaning of life?”

  1. Lol – let’s juat say that whatever passes for intelligent life in 5bn years probably won’t be too concerned with the fine tuning argument!

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  2. Racing Boo,

    It’s the exact opposite. The trend shows that as we know more details about our universe, the more we ponder about the intelligent behind creation.

    Darwinism wouldn’t stand a chance if it was introduced after we know so much about DNA. It was born out of ignorance, lack of knowledge, and old technology.

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    1. I think you missed the point I was making. Whoever or whatever is still alive in 5bn years isn’t going to be pondering the “intelligence” behind creation.

      Re your second paragraph – I don’t get into arguments with creationists.

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  3. As I commented in another post, I had the chance this weekend to begin an apologetic series of meetings with a friend of mine. I used Kalam as a starting point.

    Now, the young woman I’m talking to is very, very intelligent, but takes an agnostic approach towards science, particularly cosmology and astrophysics. Her claim is that given our tiny, tiny place in the universe, she believes that observation that leads to a thorough understanding of the far reaches of space is beyond our capabilities, and speculates that perhaps in another area of the universe the laws that we observe and affirm in our small area of the universe, like entropy, thermodynamics, etc. could be completely different in another area of the universe. I saw her point, obviously disagreed, but it kind of threw me for a loop and I didn’t know how to properly respond.

    I see no reason why those laws would change, given the universe is a “closed system,” but how could I properly engage that question of hers? In the end she admitted the strength of Kalam based on “what we know currently” in science, and didn’t attempt to dispute the first premise, but did dispute the second premise of the universe having a beginning based on that speculation. She admitted that having an immensely powerful mind as a cause of the universe is certainly more plausible than the alternative (uncaused creation out of nothing).

    It seems to me that her problem with the above seems to be more an “argument against science” which she admits at times she is skeptical of, and so it makes it hard for me to present verifiable evidence. She *was* quite receptive of philosophical arguments though, and so I have hope for showing her proofs on other angles.

    Thoughts anyone? I think next time we meet we’ll listen to the JP Moreland lecture that was linked here a couple weeks ago.

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  4. “What would you think of a person whose C? What would you make of a person who believed that other people were just bags of atoms, with no human rights and no free will? What would you make of a person who thought that other people were just objects to be used (or dispersed) in whatever way made them feel happiest? What does a selfish attitude do to enterprises like marriage and parenting?”

    1) Wintery- I feel like this is a major flaw in your thinking. I’ve seen you write similar things many times and I don’t understand your logic. If I am an Atheist(I am), and I feel like I have human rights and free will(I do), why would the person next to me not have the exact same rights and ability to exercise their free will?

    2) In the view of Atheism, I have absolutely no reason to treat anybody anywhere in a manner that I wouldn’t like to be treated. This means that I have no reason to discriminate against homosexuals, or people of a different race, religion, gender, etc. The whole beauty of Atheism is that everybody is EXACTLY equal. If you murder somebody, it isn’t wrong because a book said it was wrong; it is wrong because that victim had just as much right to be free, happy, and alive as you did.

    3) There is no incompatibility with viewing people as “bags of atoms,” and realizing that they are self-aware and have feelings and free will. I have never met anybody anywhere whose “every action is designed to maximize their pleasurable feelings in this life.” Just because I don’t believe in your god, doesn’t mean I have somehow lost my sense of empathy. I will not do something to harm another person because I can put myself in their shoes. I might think your car is awesome and WANT to seal it, but I won’t because I know how I would feel if that were my car and somebody stole it from me. This is why there isn’t rampant rape, murder, theft, etc. in countries like Sweden and Denmark, in which the majority of the inhabitants are atheists.

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    1. Thanks for your comment. I hope I am not too mean in replying, because you were not mean at all.

      1) “If I am an Atheist(I am), and I feel like I have human rights and free will(I do), why would the person next to me not have the exact same rights and ability to exercise their free will?”

      Because this is just a subjective feeling, and it is therefore not rational, and therefore not compelling. Someone who doesn’t have those feelings would appeal to the same authority (subjectivism) as you. It amounts to personal preference, and so you have no grounds for thinking that there is anything moral about what you are doing. You just like ice cream or broccoli, and Stalin is as justified in not liking them as you are in liking them. Personal preference is not morality.

      2) “In the view of Atheism, I have absolutely no reason to treat anybody anywhere in a manner that I wouldn’t like to be treated.”

      In view of atheism, you have absolutely no reason to treat anyone in any manner. So long as you get pleasure and escape detection/punishment, you can treat other people however you want. Again, it’s just personal opinion. There is no way we ought to be. Just choose what makes you happy. For some people, murdering the unborn after recreational sex makes them happy. Or owning slaves makes them happy. Since the unborn and slaves cannot stop them, it’s all justified. Who is there to forbid things that make a person happy? It’s all personal preferences.

      3) “There is no incompatibility with viewing people as “bags of atoms,” and realizing that they are self-aware and have feelings and free will.”

      The problem is that self-awareness and free will are not grounded on atheism. If matter is all there is, then you are a computer made out of meat. You have no awareness nor any free will. You cannot just help yourself to these ideas that are rooted in theism. You have to account for awareness and free will on a materialist universe. (You also have to account for the origin of the universe, etc.)

      Empathy is subjective. You may feel empathy for someone but that is just another way of saying you act in a way to maximize your own happiness. You feel bad about owning slaves (why? we don’t know – it’s arbitrary) so you don’t own any in order to feel happier. Some people will own slaves, because they feel happier owning slaves. Look at today. 50 million unborn children are dead. Empathy means nothing. It is overridden by irresponsible self-interest all the time. Empathy is not OBJECTIVE. It’s personal preference. And personal preferences are not morality. Morality is about freely choosing to do the right thing. On atheism, there is no free will, and no right thing, and no reason to do the right thing when it diminishes your happiness.

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