The precious accident

I was watching a show called “Alien Planet” on the Discovery channel today, and some scientist (I presume an atheist) said, “We have to realize that life is the result of a series of random accidents. Life is precious, so we must do whatever we can to protect it.” He then went into a shpiel about how we have to protect the environment.

I’m left wondering, however, why? Why, if it is merely an accident, do we have to protect life? The word “precious” presupposes that there is some sentient being that feels that affection or to which the thing described is considered valuable. To whom or what are we duty bound to protect life if there is no God? Ourselves? Well, what if some of us don’t see the need? It makes no sense to me.

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13 Responses to “The precious accident”

  1. Kansas Bob says:

    Quite illogical isn’t it? Evolution just doesn’t answer the “why” question. I saw Ben stein this morning on The Today Show where he was interviewed about his new movie. Another evidence of all of the intellectual dishonesty out there.

  2. Isaiah says:

    Oh, you Creationists! It’s so precious because that accident is a once-off deal! Imagine if we don’t take care of the environment! There’s no chance anything living can come by accident (again)!


    On a serious note, I hope Expelled makes it here. I’d love to see it.

  3. Kev1 says:

    Hahaha.. So what that scientist believes actually is that he is an accident. =))

    As for me, I believe God created me purposefully and lovingly. Amen.

  4. Mulled Vine says:

    It seems natural to me that self-aware beings would be precious about their existence, particularly if they believe its an accident (i.e. not likely to happen again, just like it wasn’t likely to have happened in the first place).

  5. casey says:

    Mulled Vine,

    I agree. Even if there was no purpose, you’d likely still cherish your own life. But why would we be “duty-bound” to protect life in general? If there is no God, life will one day end when the sun burns out however many thousands or millions of years that is in the future. At that point there will be no one around to even remember that we existed. It’s all pointless. So why are we duty-bound to make sure that it lasts a few more years when in the grand scheme of things that little bit of extra time we will supposedly add to the equation will be meaninglessly small?

  6. Mulled Vine says:

    Its an interesting question. Why do people try to live longer – what’s the point? The “obligation” to preserve our environment is a community version of the lets try to live longer idea. It is essentially pointless but for people who have nothing else, every minute is worth trying to preserve I suppose.

  7. Casey says:

    Well, I get the being afraid of death part. I just don’t get the “duty-bound” part. How can we be duty-bound if there’s nobody to be duty-bound to?

  8. waimarama says:

    Yes, the scientist believes he’s an accident. So do I. I also believe all of you are accidents. What seems bizarre to me, is why you question the value of preserving life. If you want to die, die. If you are not inspired with love for the beautiful accidents that you see around you, I pity you, subjective values of worth and beauty are a major part of what makes us human. Don’t you appreciate anything about the world around you? Is all the hope, curiosity, compassion, and struggles of YOUR OWN SPECIES worthless and meaningless to you? By deeming human existence worthless just because it is fragile and without a creator, you are spitting on life itself. I am an atheist, but the best word I can think of for you (this is all pretty much directed at the original post) is ungrateful, and, it seems, empty. Is God the only way you can find value in life at all?

  9. casey says:

    Ungrateful? To whom would I be grateful? And no, I’m not empty, because I do find purpose in life. I just don’t understand how an atheist can. I understand the concept of temporal purpose, but if there is no ultimate purpose, doesn’t that make it basically meaningless?

  10. waimarama says:

    For an atheist, temporal purpose is the ultimate, only purpose. That is how an atheist finds purpose in life. That is, if they need to impose a “purpose” on something that I see as extremely self-evident. I have never thought, “What is my purpose? /the purpose of humanity?” I do not want to see the earth and it’s people destroyed. I want to preserve it, and dislike the idea that someone could live and not care about the preservation of life. How could that not make you ungrateful? Ungrateful to all the generations of humans and pre humans that endured and suffered to continue their species, and ungrateful to more recent people, like all the Russians, Americans, and English soldiers who died in the Second World War. No, the lack of some higher being that has an ultimate purpose it wants you to follow does not make life meaningless, at all. Not unless you are unsatisfied with the world as you see it, and find no value in it.
    What purpose can an atheist possibly find in life? Only love, knowledge, family, humanitarian things (aid work, science, medicine) etc. All of this, without the carrot and stick (or human barbecue and preservation of the all important self ) found in Christianity.

  11. casey says:

    But what’s the point of preserving it? You’ve heard of thermodynamics, right? The world is going to end. What difference does the timing make? Either way, one day all sentient life will be gone from this solar system, and there will be no one around to even remember that anything was ever here.

  12. waimarama says:

    Yes, in several billion years the sun will expand, evaporate earth’s atmosphere and boil away it’s water (though Mars may survive). What difference does the timing make?
    A lot. I am still as fascinated and in awe of the world as I was when I was eight – has it ever occurred to you to ask an eight year old child why they want to be alive tomorrow? The reason the timing matters is simple – everyone wants to live, preferably in a world that has not been damaged by people who don’t care about it. I want life to be preserved (as long as possible, even if that time is completely insignificant in the history of the universe) because I’m human, I enjoy living and observing life, but the basic thing is this:
    I use temporal judgement. I believe it is the only judgement that exists. Once you minus humans from the equation of course you get nothing, except light years of empty space. What is the point of preserving life?
    Ask yourself why you would remove a hedgehog from the middle of the road, or a baby. It’s temporal judgement. For some crazy reason, you value that baby’s existence, you even care about it’s future (hopefully). Or, if God didn’t exist, would you leave that baby in the middle of the road? If you have any empathy, or value human existence, it makes a lot of difference. Now multiply that baby into six billion babies and former babies, living on a planet called Earth. A scientist exhorts the older ones to preserve their planet for themselves and whoever may come after, for as long as possible, because he values human life – and he is scorned (!!!) WHY?
    Life does not need an ultimate purpose. Timing matters to everyone who values their life (Would you mind dying tomorrow?) and who values this beautiful earth.
    For me it’s a very, very basic idea. I cannot go on with this argument unless I know that you have, at some point in your life, valued a simple thing for itself, only what you knew about it with your eyes, ears etc

    “Human life is an arrow, going from nothing, into nothing” ( a quote from my father). This is the end of my posting unless you can tell me something about this precious, accidental arrow of ours that you value. If you can’t there really can be no understanding between us. I didn’t include specific examples from my life because it would make the post even longer. I hope this has answered some of your questions, like how an atheist finds value in life…..

  13. casey says:

    Any self-aware being is going to value his or her own life and the lives of his loved ones. I get that. I just don’t see the point in it all if it’s all just a big accident. I’m really trying to see it, but I guess it’ll take some more mental gymnastics. I do appreciate your insights, though, waimarama. Thanks for stopping by.