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Chapter 10 - Does the Universe Have a Purpose?

Alvy’s Error and the Meaning of Life

from Part II - Homo Religiosus: Reflections on God and Religion

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  28 February 2020

Michael Shermer
Affiliation:
Chapman University, California
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Summary

This essay addresses one of life’s Big Questions, and for too long theologians have had a monopoly on an answer. Unfortunately, many philosophers and scientists have punted on the question, preferring something along the lines of “the universe has no purpose – we have to create our own purposes,” which is true as far as it goes, but doesn’t go far enough. One reason for the reticence of philosophers and scientists to speak out on the matter beyond this now-clichéd reply is that they fear being accused of the “naturalistic fallacy,” or of bumping up against David Hume’s “Is-Ought” wall (which I address in Chapter 19 in this volume). This is a red herring. We need not concede any ground to theists on this (or any other) question related to meaning, morals, and values, and to that end I append to this essay my February 2018 Scientific American column titled “Alvy’s Error and the Meaning of Life,” in which I come at the question from yet another perspective, this time demonstrating why theists’ answer to the purpose question is not just misguided; it is wrong.

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Giving the Devil his Due
Reflections of a Scientific Humanist
, pp. 103 - 109
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2020

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