Tuesday, February 26, 2008

What books inspired your thinking in 2007?

Here are some of the books that I read in 2007 that inspired thoughts and new ideas:

Alister McGrath – The Twilight of Atheism
A fascinating historical account of modern day unbelief.

Antjie Krog – County of My Skull
A journalist’s experiences while covering South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

Ayn Rand – Atlas Shrugged
A fictional story of the collapse of society and the beginning of the next Dark Ages, written by the founder of Objectivism.

Bill Bryson – A Short History of Nearly Everything
A fun account of the entire history of the universe, including tales of the strange and eccentric men and woman who contributed to scientific discovery.

Danny Wallace – Join Me
The hilarious true story of a British man’s endeavour to get people to join him. Join him for what? No reason at all.

Hugh Ross – The Creator and the Cosmos
A fascinating account of old earth creationism

Jack Bowen – The Dream Weaver
A Sophie’s World kind of story about a boy who travels on a journey of philosophical discovery.

Julian Baggini – Atheism: A Very Short Introduction
I recommend this anyone who wants to know what atheists believe. Very concise and non-confrontational.

Margaret Atwood – The Handmaid’s Tale
A dystopian novel set in the USA sometime in the future, where woman have lost all their rights.

Mark Haddon – The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
A wonderful fictional story about an gifted, but autistic, boy who recounts his attempt to solve the murder of a neighbour’s dog.

Richard Carrier – Sense and Goodness without God
A philosophical defense of metaphysical naturalism

Richard Dawkins – Climbing Mount Improbable
Richard Dawkins is at his best when he is not writing about religion. This book provides a fascinating view of evolution, and it is here where Dawkins describes his 'Climbing Mount Improbable' take on natural selection. His love for biology oozes out the text and, for me at least, invigorated my own sense of wonder of nature.

Richard Dawkins – The God Delusion
It's a pity that this is Dawkins' most popularised work. He has written better. An overview of atheistic thought, although many atheists might not fully subscribe to Dawkin’s conflict narrative concerning science and religion.

Steven Levitt & Stephen J. Dubner – Freakonomics
Does abortion reduce violent crime? Does the method of parenting really make a difference to a child? These, and many other interesting questions, are tackled by an eccentric economist who uses data mining techniques to find interesting patterns in society and culture.

Tom Clark – Encountering Naturalism
A brief overview of metaphysical naturalism

Victor Stenger – God: The Failed Hypothesis.
An argument against Stephen Jay Gould’s NOMA principle. Stenger argues that science does have something to say about the existence or non-existence of the Judeo-Christian-Islamic God, and concludes that the evidence for such a god is left wanting.

What books did you read in 2007 that inspired your thinking?

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Is the meaning of life for God subjective?

I have written a few blog posts regarding my thoughts about finding meaning in life without God. On this post of mine, Bill left an excellent and thought provoking comment, arguing that atheists – when pursuing the “meaning of life”– are basically existentialists. I have to read more on this issue, and will look up Viktor Frankl’s book, which Bill mentions. However, I would like to offer a response to Bill’s comment that religion, or more specifically Christianity, provides an objective source for the meaning of life for human beings.

Bill writes:

However, in the Christian view, the meaning, veen (sic) in teh (sic) here and now, though subjective, is based on objective values

I’ve often come across this argument, and I often wonder what makes Christian morality, values and purpose “objective” in nature. I would imagine, and I could be wrong here, that the idea of objectivity is closely linked to the belief that elements are “objective” or superior when they are given to us from a higher source, in this case from the hands of creator himself. This is what Daniel Dennett, in a debate with Dinesh D’Souza, calls the "trickle down" view of goodness: the belief that anything that comes from higher up (in this case, “meaning for our lives”) is always better than what we can create for ourselves.

But while I was thinking this through, I suddenly thought about God. If an objective meaning of life is one that is given to us from something higher up, then what about God himself? As a sentient being, God – if she/he/it exists – should also have purpose and meaning. Was God bestowed with purpose from a higher source, or did he decide it for himself? If he decided for himself, then isn’t his own “meaning of life” just as “subjective” as the atheist’s?

We can also use Plato’s
Euthyphro dilemma and present a similar argument regarding morality. What criteria did God use to determine what is good and bad, wrong and right? If he decided for himself, without any input from an outside (or higher) source, then isn’t the moral code that he has supposedly handed down to us through the Bible subjective in nature?