Religion and the Red Herring of “Purpose”

6 Apr

Deus-Ex-Machina: Religion, Metaphysics, and the Red Herring of “Purpose”

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http://darwiniana.com/2012/04/03/the-obsession-to-deny-purpose/

04.03.12 — The obsession to deny purpose — Posted in General at 10:26 am by nemo

A universe without purpose — http://richarddawkins.net/articles/645484-a-universe-without-purpose

By LAWRENCE M. KRAUSS – LOS ANGELES TIMES

Added: Sunday, 01 April 2012 at 5:36 PM  New revelations in science have shown what a strange and remarkable universe we live in.  The illusion of purpose and design is perhaps the most pervasive illusion about nature that science has to confront on a daily basis. Everywhere we look, it appears that the world was designed so that we could flourish.

I think that the failure to find purpose in the universe is the failure of science, as such. The result is a hopeless muddle. Evolution simply makes no sense without a view of directionality. But the obsession to deny this goes on and on and on.

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I can understand people’s reservations about denying the existence of the noumenous in our world, but at the same time I’m extremely suspicious about what’s behind all these odes to “meaning” and “purpose” in modern philosophy.  … Call it “function” in nature, call it a “causal mechanism” or “dynamic”, but please, please don’t get it mixed up with religious metaphysics or designer theologies.

I expect there’s a hidden wild card at the heart of all these re-assertions of “purpose” in the science-philosophy, evolution-historical-human experience discussion.  … a kind of a ‘we-knew-it-all-along’ device catered to one-up and shut down any sort of science critique that could be made of design theorists and their counterparts in new age religious and idealism-based philosophical movements.

Science/rational thought has already refuted much of the god-idea and supernatural metaphysics; so now the new strategy by the metaphysicians of today is to subsume the science model of the universe under its ethereal notions, much as Deepak Chopra has made quantum dynamics a subset of cosmic consciousness.

But it’s the same old gag … Tell people it’s SCIENCE, but at heart it’s actually a re-hashed form of RELIGION.  Or by analogy, using the language of the Monty Python sketch, it’s the French Castle built in the middle of England … or the byline that they (the French) “already got” a Holy Grail, upon being asked “where” the Grail is.  But that’s the hook; the Grailit’s not there, and it could never be.

This whole business to re-assert the centrality of “purpose” in intellectual discourse is a con job.  A back door through which to bring back religion into the discussion of ontology and epistemology in modern thought. But it’s needless.  You don’t need “design” to recognize inherent structure in the universe, nor do you need to see intentionally-based “purpose” in the world to recognize its causal foundations and natural ends.  … Science and Natural Philosophy; they’ve already shown a basis in reality for these dynamics … without the need of gods or spiritual agents.

The push to bring back “purpose” into the forefront of these discussions is a clever ruse.  Religionists are using this as an excuse to proselytize for their faith-based beliefs. But there’s no need to do so, not when dynamic nature itself renders the need for having such things redundant … There’s no need for “purpose” or “design” in the world in lieu of an intending designer with a large scale cosmic blueprint … The only reason to emphasize such ideas then is a religious or quasi-religious one; getting ‘god’ around the ‘god’-screeners and into the intellectual arena some other way.   If supernaturalism and metaphysics fails, then try for a deus-ex-machina.

That’s what is at stake here in this conversation.  Atheist or otherwise, science-type or not – it’s foolish to  fall for this kind of a ploy.  There’s plenty in the grab bag of human experience and the history of human thought and science to account for these fundamental principles in the world without having to resort to simplistic religious formulae or explanations.

It’s an insult to the power of the human intellect and human understanding to suggest you need ‘gods’ to  make life ‘meaningful’ or metaphysical religion to instill a ‘sense of wonder’ in the cosmos. … And you don’t need a world of “purpose” or “design” to recognize our reality is wonderfully complex and beautiful, either, as a natural system.

OK, so our world appears miraculous and well suited for us, our needs, and whatever else we see so clearly ordered in reality.  … That’s not a proof for the existence of “purpose” in creation, but only a tribute to the evolution of the sapient mind in human beings (that we can pick out the wonders of the world, see the magnificence of the universe, and map out the magnitudes of order we witness in the cosmos and all in the blink of an eye).

That the universe itself draws out this kind of a response in us is a different question, a question of “complexity” and “functionalism” (and what in nature predisposes natural systems and phenomena to what we call functionality).  But that’s entirely different from the religiously-inspired ideal of “finely-tuned” “design” with a god-designer behind it pulling strings to its own intentions.

“Purpose” is a canard, a false flag designed to divert us from the real goal of these design-based theories of creation … the re-assertion of religion and supernatural metaphysics in public and intellectual discussion from whence they’ve long ago been excised, and rightly so …  But we can’t afford to fall for this gag any more.  It’s time we moved on as a species and a civilization, and quit letting ourselves be roped into the religionistic catch-trap of god-talk and eschatologies masquerading as a philosophical consideration of “Cause” and “Effect.”  It’s time for science now to take up the banner of philosophical discussion and human understanding (in its more universalized sense), and carry these ideas, alongside technological advancement and social progress, into the future for our race.

Religiously-defined “purpose” as such is a relic of the past.  We have to be willing to set it aside if we are going to step into our future as a species.  That’s our destiny, and where finally our own feet will carry us on the road of life as we travel the course evolution and history had laid out for us as natural beings.  … “Purpose” and “Design” aren’t part of this equation, but that they aren’t shouldn’t drive us into nihilistic fit either.  We make our own “destiny” and define our own sense of “purpose.” That it’s not bestowed on us from above or from the outside shouldn’t make us feel belittled; instead we’re elevated … in the knowledge that (in the end) we alone are the only agents or powers with a chance at charting our courses and shaping our futures in the great oceanic currents and tides of time itself in history.

“Purpose” isn’t handed down from On-High. We make our own “purpose”Always have, Always will.

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One Response to “Religion and the Red Herring of “Purpose””

  1. John Landon April 6, 2012 at 3:47 pm #

    Thanks for comment, Luke. I will relink at Darwiniana

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