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Christianity &Islam &Science Johnson on 17 Dec 2008 12:36 am

Why are we here?

As a followup to the post, Real Answers to Meaning-of-life Questions, these videos feature Richard Dawkins answering the question, “Why are we here?”

Part 1:

Part 2:

Part 3:

It starts out like this:

The human race is one of the wonders of the universe. We may be unique. And of all our remarkable properties, one stands out. It is that we are restlessly drawn to ask questions like, “Why are we here?” What is the purpose of life?

He answers these questions in this way:

Technology is human goal-seeking writ large. And once human beings set themselves to a goal, they force the pace of evolution themselves. This is an entirely new kind of evolution: Non-genetic evolution. Advancing at a speed that may be a million times faster than the genetic evolution it resembles.

We see its product everywhere, in the technology of the modern world. We have built a technological world that lets us move far beyond the dictates of nature, and it allows us to do astonishing things. We alleviate hunger with new strains of crops. We predict the weather with high speed computers, and cure diseases with pharmaceuticals. Through technology we have filled the world with purposeful creations.

But technology does something else. It breeds an odd habit of thought. An animal who invents will look at the world in a far different way than any other animal. We see the world through purpose-colored spectacles.

Because we create things for a purpose, in the past we assumed that there was purposeful design in nature too. There wasn’t, as it happens. It took Darwin to realize this. He looked deep into the heart of nature and discovered a beautiful mechanism which blindly simulates the illusion of purpose. For the first time, an evolved creature had seen beneath nature’s veil, and worked out what nature was really up to. It is this spirit of inquiry that drove Darwin that gives our life meaning, and still drives us today.

Powered by our technical capacity, our flexible behavior and our rapid communication of new ideas, we have burst out beyond the confines of our atmosphere to explore new worlds. And our minds have ventured even further. We have looked across the deserted vacuum of space to distant galaxies. Which means we have looked backwards in time to the very birth of the universe and of time itself. At the other extreme we have looked deep into the atom, at the strangeness of subatomic particles. And most amazing of all we have dissected the living cell, finally unraveling the digital codes of the genes themselves. And still we are not satisfied.

We reach out in our search for meaning, until we suddenly realize that it is we who provide the purpose in a universe that would otherwise have none. Nothing else can do it, at least nothing that we know of.

In a small, otherwise unimportant corner of the universe, a birth is celebrated: the birth of deliberate purpose, planning, design, foresight. For all we know, it may be an unprecedented event. We have no evidence that it has ever occurred anywhere else, and after we are gone, it may never happen again.

We can leave behind the ruthlessness, the waste, the callousness of natural selection. Our brains, our language, our technology make us capable of forward planning. We can set up new purposes of our own. And among these new goals can be the complete understanding of the universe in which we live. A new kind of purpose is abroad in the universe. It resides in us.

To learn more, see The meaning of life for details.

6 Responses to “Why are we here?”

  1. on 17 Dec 2008 at 8:12 pm 1.Jonathon said …

    While Dawkins is well-known for his atheism, I find deep spiritual meaning in his writing.

    His book, “The God Delusion” was for me a call to a greater form of spirituality than what is offered by traditional and supernaturally-based theology. If you haven’t listened to the unabridged audiobook version of “The God Delusion” (read by Dawkins and his lovely and brilliant wife Lalla Ward) I encourage you to do so. Speaking as someone who grew up being dragged to a Southern Baptist church on Sunday mornings, I found Dawkins’ message to be more meaningful and inspiring than anything I have ever heard come out of the mouth of a religious leader.

    The universe is indeed an amazing place. I am in awe of the immensity, the complexity and the mystery of it all. Studying the work of Dawkins and other scientists such as Carl Sagan has provided me with more “spiritual food” than any dusty Bible ever could.

  2. on 17 Dec 2008 at 9:37 pm 2.loved one said …


    if you haven’t checked out Daniel Dennet, I highly recommend him as well.

  3. on 18 Dec 2008 at 2:09 am 3.Kneebow said …

    Why do you say Amen, so be it? I guess you all are starting another false religion. What the world needs, another false religion.

    Praise be to God who works all things together for His glory. Praise the Lamb for He was slain. Amen.

  4. on 18 Dec 2008 at 3:05 am 4.loved one said …

    irony. should I spell it out?

    I – R – O – N – Y

    get it? all religions are false. we definitely don’t need any more, including your own false religion – whichever one it is.
    praise be the glory that is delusion and slay the first begotten of the second duck beam clandestine dwarves! let us halt reason in its deadly tracks! can I get an amen?

  5. on 28 Dec 2008 at 4:52 pm 5.hawk said …

    If you can think of a better form of government. Worldwide government. Then you have a say so. Religion , I agree is NOT of God. But God is Spirit and we must worship in Spirit. Christ died for Our trangressions, our sin. Once. He cannot keep dying over and over everytime we sin.

    If you would take time to really read the Bible and come up with a dispensational view of the Bible, you would recognize what parts of the Bible are for WHAT people. (Jews or non-Jews).

    He talks about the coming of the Messiah during the Old testament. To save His people ISRAEL. He did not come to save the United States or Britian at the time. His plan would be recognized if you would read the epistles of Paul. AFTER the death and ressurection of Christ.

    That is for us at this “age.” Then comes the “ages to come.” Which we know nothing about except that He will set up His Kingdom.

    Every prophesy has come true. For the Jews He performed many miracles. So they might believe that it was He , Jesus Christ the Saviour. Like you, they did not. And killed Him.But what they did not realize was that Christ knew that they would probably reject Him and THE PLAN was still in effect.

    It was a mystery. Which the Apostle Paul so well explains.

    If you care to read the Books of Paul and study them as you study why God soes not exist and the study of the universe. Which you will never , ever understand.

    Of the Universe,Scientists have nothing except what they can see , feel, all the senses. Not all scientists Thank God. But the ones who do are trying the impossible. That’s God’s domain.Humans will not even scratch the surface.

    Miracles are not performed today. Your reliance on why does not God grow a new leg on somebody is irrelevant and stupid. The Bible explains that we will be transformed with incorruptable bodies. Meaning spiritual bodies.As He and the angelic beings have. He created us mortal so that if we sinned we could DIE instead of living in spiritual darkness for eternity.

    Take the time to study and draw your own conclusion.In stead of established religious belefs and doctrine.

  6. on 14 Jan 2009 at 8:32 am 6.Elisabeth said …

    Hawk; you are quoting out of a book which is full of blood-shat. You make a mistake about that the Jews killed Jesus, Jesus himself was a Jew and not a Christian. His followers who never knew him, hundreds of years later founded this new religion.
    It was the Romans who killed Jesus and thousands of others with him. Crucifying was in that time the method of death sentence.

    “Every prophesy has come true”.
    Explain and proof this, which prophesy???

    “For the Jews He performed many miracles. So they might believe that it was He , Jesus Christ the Saviour.Like you, they did not. And killed Him.But what they did not realize was that Christ knew that they would probably reject Him and THE PLAN was still in effect.”

    Hakw; Jesus was a Jew, he was nothing else but a citizen who was Jewish. It is pathetic that I can taste a anti-Semitic altitude here that made the holocaust possible.

    Further you have no idea about science and what scientists discovered through out the centuries of enlightenment, and it is very scary to find out today that there are many people that want to return to the dark ages. So much for human intelligent, does it exist??? The most scary thing is if the one nation in the world that use to be the nation of Freedom, is turning into a nation that is no different then the nation of Iran only under a different god.

    Fundamentalists will destroy the world based on a god delusion. What a shame. May be humans were a mistake of nature?

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