Sago Boulevard

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Meaning and "Pointless Indifference"

Richard Dawkins in River out of Eden: A Darwinian View of Life:
The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is at bottom no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but pointless indifference.

In this interview, though, he "thank[s] goodness" for exactly those things which he denies are properties of the universe:
[Darwin] said "What a book a Devil's Chaplain might write on the clumsy, wasteful, blundering low and horridly cruel works of nature." Darwin realized that natural selection produces cruel results. He looked at predators and prey, parasites and hosts, and saw how there is an immense amount of suffering and cruelty out there in nature.
We can seek more altruistic, sympathetic, artistic things that have nothing to do with the preservation of our selfish genes - and thank goodness we can.

One way to resolve these two sentiments is to suggest that what makes "altruistic" laudable and "cruelty" undesirable aren't properties of the physical world per se, but rather part of man's effort to create his own meaning in the world.

But how exactly do we create meaning from "pointless indifference" without conceding some version of relativism?

Now, don't throw back at me "well religion doesn't do any better of a job!" That's not the point. It seems clear to me, for entirely logical reasons, that if morality is to have any force, it must be, in a deep sense, built-in to the fabric of the universe.