June 8, 2019

What Is The "Value" Of Life? (What If Atheists Are Right, Part 2)

When debating the questions of existence with an 
atheist, at some point the value of human life will inevitably arise. This happened with my previous post, when a viewer on my YouTube channel challenged the idea that eternal life would be valuable. She said quite correctly that scarcity gives items, even our time, higher value. It’s basically Economics 101: supply and demand. Simple concept. For example…

In the US today, we tend to take water for granted. It’s typically abundant and cheap. But elsewhere in the world, that’s not necessarily the case. Desert-dwelling societies put a much higher value on water, and access to water may play a central role in their economy. But where I live, I pay about $30-$40 a month and I can shower, do laundry, run the tap, and flush the pooper as much as I want.

Water is an absolute necessity for life as we know it, so it makes sense that a scarcity of it makes it that much more valuable to us. But humans also place high value on a lot of things that are not necessary for survival at all.

Diamonds are not really as rare as we’ve been led to believe - not even close. But for most of the 20th century, the DeBeers company held a virtual monopoly on the world’s supply of diamonds. Through a shady scheme of supply hoarding and controlled release of diamonds into the marketplace, they were able to create artificial scarcity, which drove up prices and led to higher profits. At the same time they also ran one of the most brilliant, devious, and successful ad campaigns the world has ever seen in order to make demand higher, which again drove up prices and led to higher profits.

So yes, I understand the importance of scarcity in determining the value of something.  But in any discussion about value, regardless of whether it’s the value of water, diamonds, artwork, or how much you should get paid for an hour of work, there is one common factor:  


Now, assuming we all agree that science (or at least our current level of science) gives us no way to escape the end of all life everywhere, then we should agree that there will be no humans left to assign value to anything at the end.

Bears, birds, and wildebeests don’t give a rip about the Mona Lisa; unless of course by “giving a rip” you mean ripping it to shreds, which is probably what they would do with it if you just left it out for them to play with.

If nobody cared about the Mona Lisa, it wouldn’t be hanging in the Louvre, it wouldn’t be
worth millions of dollars, and in fact it would have NO value whatsoever. Burn it, bury it, dump it in the Thames, it wouldn’t matter. 

But there ARE people who DO care about the Mona Lisa, as well as diamonds, and (one of my personal favorites) classic American muscle cars. But when people are removed from the equation…

The Mona Lisa is just an old rag with some paint swirled around on it stretched between a couple of sticks.

Diamonds are just sparkly rocks. (OK OK, they’re not sparkly in their natural state and some of you might object to the term "rock" when elemental carbon might be more accurate. Fair enough).

And in the end, though it saddens me to admit it, even the coolest car is just a hunk of metal.

Value is nothing more than a cognitive construct. There can be no value, intrinsic or otherwise, without a mind which creates it (or maybe for the sake of argument, without life which needs certain things in order to survive). The Universe is not a living entity, sentient or otherwise (as far as science can tell), so IT values nothing. To the universe, I don’t matter. You don’t matter. Even matter and energy and black holes and stars and quarks and planets and gravity and spacetime don’t mean anything in the complete absence of life.


IF there is truly no spiritual realm, I do believe that it would be fair to say that life only has value as long as there IS life somewhere. Yes, our lives have value to us. Yes, you should absolutely find meaning in your own existence and each and every one of us should place great value on all life. Appreciate it while it’s here, because yes, it’s only temporary! Make the best of the time you have! And Certainly our lives matter to the people within our immediate circle, and it is possible for us to leave our mark on the world for generations to come, but this discussion is on a much, much larger scale. I’m really knocking on the door of one of the biggest existential philosophical questions ever.


Am I wasting my time? I don’t know for sure, but it’s my time to waste, and if it is a waste of time, at least I’m in good company. Some of the most brilliant minds throughout history have weighed in on the question of existence. And regarding that question, science (currently, at least) says that in the end (the literal end of the universe), there will be no life.


Therefore, at the scientific end of all things, life and everything which life forms accomplished will cease to have any value, because value depends on the existence of life. Nothing that any life form could ever do would continue to hold value once all life is gone. There is no escaping that logic.

Humans: We built a vast intergalactic civilization.
Universe: Don’t care.
Humans: We cured all disease.
Universe: Also don’t care.
Humans: Oops, we accidentally eradicated an entire galaxy.
Universe: Never going to care.
Universe: Whatever. I Never cared anyway. I’m LITERALLY unable to care.

Our lives have meaning to us, in our minds, as well they should, but in the greater scheme of things, science says the end is the end, and our existence or non-existence doesn’t matter to the universe. If that is the case, then so be it. It can’t be changed, and if that makes you or me sad…

UNIVERSE: STILL don’t care.

So if the atheists are right, that’s where it’s all going to end up.


As I very briefly alluded to in the last post, if humanity (or for the sake of argument, any form of life) could go on forever without end… all of that changes. Whether it’s a physical, perpetual, unending cycle of life and death in a universe that will never cease, or the continuation of individual lives in a religious sense, life then becomes a part of the equation that would never go away.

Since our universe, scientifically speaking, is living on borrowed time, here’s where the realm of religion and spirituality becomes important to our discussion - and to be clear, I’m not limiting the conversation to Christianity alone. For those of us who believe that there is any version of a next life, the life we are currently living does hold intrinsic eternal value.

As Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius so eloquently stated, the choices we make now will echo in eternity. Or to place the idea into more modern parlance, and in the words of Buzz Lightyear, “TO INFINITY AND BEYOND!”

Life, the universe, and everything as described by science alone cannot provide meaning, value, or a purpose beyond the end of all things. During our lives? Sure. As long as something, anything is alive, somewhere? Maybe. But it is only within the spiritual realm that life and meaning walk together on an eternal path. Without a spiritual foundation, any progress which we make, anything we create, any purpose or value we discern for ourselves is only temporary.

Please understand, I’m not making a good/bad kind of qualitative judgment with that statement. I’m just presenting a fact that no atheist should have a quarrel with, because the point we both agree on is that we’re all going to die. This life is temporary, as is the universe itself. The question of the value of life both begins and ends in the mind of a living being. Therefore, the meaning of life is irrelevant in the absence of life. But whether that inevitable conclusion is a good thing or a bad thing is another matter entirely. Our feelings on the issue are not the point.

Yes, there are some folks who hang on to the idea of the afterlife as something akin to a personal security blanket - it makes them feel better about… stuff. But that’s a completely backward, self-centered way of looking at things, and it’s not what I’m about. Life is not about self. Life is about how you treat other people while you’re here.

Love thy neighbor as thyself.

What it boils down to, for me at least, is this: Unless something of us continues beyond “the end,” none of our discussions and arguments are really important to begin with. If 84% of humanity is, in fact, wrong and there is NO afterlife whatsoever, well, then our belief in it really wouldn’t matter one way or the other, would it? After all, dead is still dead, right? And eventually nothing alive will remain, right? So, my self-imposed religious delusion, if you want to call it that, will have meant nothing to the universe, either for better or for worse.

So if I’m wrong, hey, congratulations, you were right! You win the argument! Not that that makes a difference either, in the end, because nothing we think or do or build or accomplish matters in the total absence of life. Sure, it matters to us for the brief time we are here, but once we’re all gone… who will be left to care?


But… if I am right, if the 84% is right, if something of us does continue beyond what we perceive as physical reality, and what we do now really does echo throughout eternity, then the questions that theologians and spiritual scholars have been asking throughout all of human history should be questions which we all need to consider. They will still matter even after all life in the physical universe is gone. Given that virtually every religious or spiritual belief system includes some concept that our current actions will have everlasting ramifications, is it really unreasonable to suggest that you at least consider the possibilities with an open mind?

What have you got to lose?

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.