The Instigator
wjmelements
Pro (for)
Losing
42 Points
The Contender
Volkov
Con (against)
Winning
60 Points

Life does not have a satisfactory "meaning" under an atheist perspective.

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Post Voting Period
The voting period for this debate has ended.
after 19 votes the winner is...
Volkov
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 5/1/2009 Category: Society
Updated: 8 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 6,316 times Debate No: 8064
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (56)
Votes (19)

 

wjmelements

Pro

Meaning here means "purpose", as in the phrase, "The meaning of life".

Satisfactory- giving or affording satisfaction; fulfilling all demands or requirements http://dictionary.reference.com...

I contend that life has no purpose and that their is no motivation to live from an atheist perspective.

I will allow my opponent to go first so that he/she may present a few potential purposes of life to be debated.
Volkov

Con

I thank my opponent for this very interesting debate.

I accept the definitions for the words "meaning" and "satisfactory", and I shall base my arguments around that.

I will only make a short list of reasons why life does indeed have meaning from an atheist perspective, and then go into detail later on. My list is as follows:

1. Reproduction
As with any living entity, from amoebas to mosquitoes to elephants, we meant to reproduce. Our survival as a species depends on reproduction, hence why we have such complex organs designed very specifically for that purpose. Once humans stop mating, humans stop existing.

2. Societal
Humans are by nature very social creatures. This is due to furthering our own reproduction again, but as well it is for co-operation so other humans can, you guessed it, reproduce. Our society is meant to be comprehensive and close, either so we can ourselves reproduce (by showing how good we can provide for our mates and children), and so we can help others reproduce (altruism is based off of this; to help someone live is to help them reproduce and continue our species).

3. Emotion and Experience.
We all have emotions. Our emotions are designed to structure our responses to other members of our species, and in the end of course, to reproduce. But I won't argue on this point about reproduction.
Since we all have these emotions, is that not enough to live our lives? We all feel love, anger, passion, hate, happiness and sadness. Just being able to feel these emotions is something worth living for. Experiencing the world at large, with its open expanses and many peoples, is enough to live for. The human experience is literally just that, experience. I will explain later on why just experiences and the emotions they cause are satisfactory reasons to live our lives.

I wish my opponent, and myself, good luck.
Debate Round No. 1
wjmelements

Pro

I thank my opponent for his response.
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My opponent claims that reproduction, or the production of life, can be the purpose of life. However, such a purpose is based in circular reasoning. The production of life cannot be a satisfactory purpose of life.

My opponent claims that behavior that leads to reproduction can also be a purpose of life. The same logical deficiency is found here, as the only thing added to this terrible circular logic is another tier. The circle is still entirely round, as we live to talk to reproduce so that there can be more life.

My opponent's third claim is that experiencing emotions could be a purpose of life. The logic of this claim is a little more complicated, but ultimately still flawed. However, this time, the flaw is not circular.
To start the rebuttal of this point, I will quote the teachings of King Solomon of Israel.

"The living at least know they will die, but the dead know nothing. They have no further reward, nor are they remembered. Whatever they did in their lifetime - loving, hating, envying - is all gone. They no longer have a part in anything here on earth."

What I can conclude from this is that emotions are ultimately meaningless, as after long enough, they do not matter.
I await my opponent to elaborate on this third point.
-----------------------------------------------***********************--------------------------------------
What we do ultimately has no meaning in the universe. Our planet is but a small part of the universe.

The definition of "purpose" is:
-the reason for which something exists or is done http://dictionary.reference.com...

In order for life to have a "satisfactory meaning", it must have something that satisfyingly fulfills the reason for existence. Emotions, reproduction, and communication cannot be reasons for existing.
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The reason that their can be no desirable purpose of life in the minds of atheists is the belief that life is an accident. Accidents have no purpose.

I thank my opponent for this debate and await his response.
Volkov

Con

My opponent was correct in pointing out the circular logic of reproducing merely for the sake of production. But my opponent also failed to see the last part of my statement; "once humans stop mating, humans stop existing."

Our biological reasoning for living is simple; we need to reproduce. Why do we need to reproduce? We need to escape death. There is no simpler purpose to life, no simpler meaning. Is it satisfying to humans, with our large brains and our capacity to realize our mortality? Of course not. Does it have a satisfactory meaning to the biological forces that drive us, meaning evolution? Not only is it satisfactory, it is the reason.
While humans may not be satisfied with only this prospect, it is obvious our biology is. Humans are designed to have few abilities in the end; the capability to interact in the world through our senses, the capability to defend ourselves and our family from immediate death, and the capability to have those families. Evolution has formed these abilities for the very specific purpose of maintaining the lives that you and I have, so we can help continue the life of a species as a whole.
Biologically speaking, that is our purpose. To live so we can reproduce so our species escapes death. If you have another reason for the purpose of life in biological terms, you have the medium to provide the details of your theory.

But of course, as I mentioned earlier, this is not enough of a purpose to life to satisfy us humans, which is an ironic side effect of evolution's design of our brains, a design that is biologically meant to help defend ourselves from predators. As species go, we're pretty unique in realizing our own mortality. So if we cannot be satisfied with our biological purpose for living, what purpose is there?
I wish to put forward a radical perspective that may possibly offend you. This perspective is that we should live our lives, simply because we have the choice to. There is no higher, ordained purpose to be given to us; we make our lives out to be what we want them to be. If you want to live for a higher purpose, you can. If you want to live for yourself, you can. If you want to live for both reasons, you can. You are allowed to live for any reason you deem appropriate. Just as God stated we had free will, we have the choice due to our large brains to live our life how we please.
Of course, that is circular logic. You may say to me, "why should we live our lives simply because we have the choice?" I would like to rebut this possible rebuttal by first addressing your quote from King Solomon of Israel.

"The living at least know they will die, but the dead know nothing. They have no further reward, nor are they remembered. Whatever they did in their lifetime - loving, hating, envying - is all gone. They no longer have a part in anything here on earth."

I think it is pretty obvious the dead know nothing, and once you are dead, there is no benefits that you can personally reap. This is a fact, ironically, of life. But, I would like to direct your attention to the quote I provide next.

"....Never wavering from his vision of Canada as a strong united federation with equality among provinces and guaranteed rights for individuals, Trudeau was determined to secure a full and equal place for all Canadians in a bilingual, multicultural Canada." http://www.indopedia.org...

That is a small section of the epitaph on the grave of Pierre Elliott Trudeau, former Prime Minister of Canada. This is much like the epitaph you see on gravestones in the cemetery or the eulogies people deliver at someone's funeral.
This is my rebuttal against King Solomon; Pierre Trudeau. While the dead may not reap the benefits of their lives after their dead, everyone else in society that has been affected by them will. Everyone has been remembered after they die - what they did in their lifetime, all the loving, hating, envying - so it is never really gone. They still have a part in society as it has been carried on by those whose lives they have touched. Trudeau died in the year 2000, but his legacy and his life has never been forgotten. This would not be so if King Solomon was correct.

So, this is just one purpose of life; to make an impact on the lives of others. What better purpose to live your life than making sure you will be remembered? Help the homeless, unite a country, defend the rights of people against an oppressive regime, simply be born. You will always make an impact.
Nelson Mandela, Jimmy Carter, your mother, father, sister, brother, wife or husband, your children and even George Bush, all will be remembered when they die, or all will remember you and carry on your legacy when you die. Simply furthering the lives of these people, positively or negatively, is a very, very good purpose to life. Because think about it; long after your dead, your great-great-great-great grandchildren will *still* be affected then by what you did now. Does that not give us purpose?

Well, it would in most circles. But a lot of people don't think about that, only the here and now. What possible purpose can we gleem from life in a selfish perspective? This is where my "emotions and experience" argument kicks in.
I would like to quite from a man named Adrian Barnett, whose website is the first thing to pop up when you Google search "meaning of life atheist".

"Have you ever built a snowman?" - http://www.abarnett.demon.co.uk...

We all live our lives because there is emotions out there we can experience. Forget continuing the species and making an impact on society; what do you want to do? You can do it. Why? Because we have the capacity to do these things, and reap the benefits of those things, whether it be through emotions or simply through experience.
Being able to feel love, hate and envy is something that everyone has the capacity to do. Why not do it? Making love, attacking someone and spreading rumours are all experiences we can have, so why not do it?
I don't understand where people get this notion that you *must* have a higher purpose to life to be able to live it. That is simply not true, all you need is to be able to experience the things you want. That is what free will is all about, right? Our purpose in life from a personal perspective is to execute that free will and experience whatever we want to, simply because we can.

"The reason that their can be no desirable purpose of life in the minds of atheists is the belief that life is an accident. Accidents have no purpose."

Yes, life is an accident. I believe that. Does it rob me of my purpose in life? No. Why? For the reasons I stated above.
Does that mean accidents have a purpose? No, it doesn't. It just means that the accident caused us to have a purpose.
The accident created us, and we make our own purpose out of that. The one thing I've never liked about religious authority is that their purpose for our lives is to follow their rules. Life is not about rules; its about living. Only atheism can really give you the chance to live out your life however you want to, whether you want to make babies, free a country or just build a snowman, you have the capacity and the choice to. That gives you enough purpose in life.

I thank my opponent for his response, and await his rebuttal.
Debate Round No. 2
wjmelements

Pro

I thank my opponent for a response.

My opponent again insists that the purpose of species is to live on and evolve. However, this too is meaningless.
The purpose of life cannot be to avoid death or to advance itself, just as the purpose of the NRA cannot be to keep the NRA alive or to grow the NRA. While it is necessary for the NRA to stay alive to meet its purpose, the NRA's purpose is not to stay alive.

My opponent has argued that life is significant because life remembers dead living things. However, after long enough, all things are forgotten.

Though man has written epitaphs upon the graves of many Egyptians, still today we still do not know what many of these old epitaphs mean. Language evolves over time as well. After long enough, writing is also lost and the writings of the most influential writers will be extinguished as they are replaced by the memory of new ones. Who were the great philosophers before 4000 years B.C.?

After long enough years, everything is forgotten. And again, life cannot have a purpose in its being significant to itself. This too is meaningless, as what we choose to do only has an effect in the short run. In the long run, such as millions of years, the decisions a small dinosaur made do not matter to society millions of years later. Ultimately, species still evolve to their optimum adaptation to a climate and geography. It is only a matter of time. Such decisions are insignificant in the long run.

"I don't understand where people get this notion that you *must* have a higher purpose to life to be able to live it."

Well, to be able to live and to have something motivating one to live are not the psychological equivalents of purpose.

In response to my logic that accidents cannot have a purpose, my opponent claims that atheism allows one to live as one pleases, and therefore one has purpose. However, in the long run of things, all pursuits of man are meaningless.

What we do now has no purpose. What we do to live has no purpose. And accidents cannot have purpose. Does making a snowman give one purpose? Such a pursuit is also meaningless, as what we do during our lives may produce us pleasure, but such things ultimately die away.

So, we are forced to conclude that from an atheist perspective, there is no great purpose of life. Vote PRO.
Volkov

Con

I thank my opponent for his answer, and I wish him good luck during the voting period.

My opponent states that the purpose of the NRA is not to stay alive, which is true. It is intended to represent the views of gun owners and keep them in the public view.
It can be argued though, that since the gun owner's voice is what keeps the NRA alive and provides it purpose, life does the same for humans; it literally keeps us alive, and out of life we create our purpose. My opponent's example therefore does not make sense.

My opponent contends that due to language and time, our legacies eventually become crumbled and never remembered, therefore negating my argument that no matter what we have an impact, and that that provides us a purpose to life.
This is simply not true; the fact that he cites Egyptian epitaphs is proof enough that their legacies are leaving an impact upon us. We spend tireless hours searching for their meaning, learning of the mysteries and secrets they hold; that is clearly an impact, a legacy, that they have left for us.
As well, he asks me which philosophers are remembered from 4000 BC. Well, quite frankly, if you believe in the Bible, there is many important people that have left their impact on our society today. As well, who is to say that there is no philosophies or ideas that came from such a time period? Does it need to be attributed to a name? No, it only must have an impact on us. It is clear that our morality and our ideals are traded down generation from generation; that is an impact, and creating that impact is a purpose for living.

"What we do now has no purpose. What we do to live has no purpose. And accidents cannot have purpose."

Clearly my opponent does not understand my contention. Accidents of course have no purpose, but they can create a purpose where there was none. For example, if a bucket of water spills over, there is clearly no purpose to this, it is an accident. But it creates a purpose, because I need to clean the water up.
This was my contention; accidents do not have a purpose, but they can clearly create purpose. Life is accidental, but it has given us purpose to continue on, for the exact reasons I have stated in my arguments.

"In response to my logic that accidents cannot have a purpose, my opponent claims that atheism allows one to live as one pleases, and therefore one has purpose. However, in the long run of things, all pursuits of man are meaningless."

My opponent here contends that all pursuits of man are meaningless, but how does this not apply to the religious ideals as well? At the very least, atheism allows you to choose how to live your life.
Yes, snowmen will eventually melt away, making the entire act of building the snowman pointless. But will you not remember how happy you felt building that snowman? Will your children not remember how happy you seemed when you built the snowman, and how happy they felt as well? Will this happiness not follow on to their children, and their children's children?
Your point is moot, because to give purpose does not necessarily mean that it must last; it simply means, by your own dictionary definition, "the reason for which something exists or is done, made, used, etc.."
All of my arguments have fit this definition. We all have reasons to live and to exist. I have also demonstrated that atheists, including myself, believe the arguments I have put forward. Therefore, it is clear that life does have satisfactory 'meaning' under an atheist perspective.

I thank my opponent for this debate, and I hope that you all vote PRO.
Debate Round No. 3
56 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by wjmelements 8 years ago
wjmelements
Yep. We were just misinterpreting eachother's arguments.
Posted by NItEMArE129 8 years ago
NItEMArE129
Ahhh... That would make sense now. Well I guess there's no point in continuing since we weren't actually debating in the first place.
Posted by bluefreedom23 8 years ago
bluefreedom23
Great debate topic. Thanks to wjmelements for initiating it because it is one of the biggest misunderstandings by religious people about atheists. Volkov did a nice job in clarifying the atheist position.

Basically atheists don't look for outside validation of their lives. Meaning in one's life is manifested by the person her or himself.

All I can tell you is I am a happy atheist who sees much meaning in my life.
Posted by wjmelements 8 years ago
wjmelements
Premise: I am dead.

Logical Conclusions:
1. Someone killed me.
2. Something killed me.
3. My body no longer functions.

Those are inductive. I was referring to deduction. I see where our argument originates now.
Inductive logic is subjective.
Deductive logic is objective.

An example of deductive logic:
PREMISES
1. If I am alive, then my body functions.
2. I am alive.
THEREFORE
3. My body functions.

We were taling about different things.
Posted by NItEMArE129 8 years ago
NItEMArE129
We also use logic. We create logic from the mind. Therefore, logic is subjective. Objective logic, therefore, is an oxymoron. It does not exist. Objective truth is simply information.

Premise: a statement that is assumed to be true and from which a conclusion can be drawn

Premise: I am dead.

Logical Conclusions:
Someone killed me.
Something killed me.
My body no longer functions.

All three of those conclusions are viable. You have no logic that, based on the premise, can discard any of those conclusions. They don't necessarily have to be related. Therefore, you can make many conclusions from one premise.
Posted by wjmelements 8 years ago
wjmelements
Subjective-existing in the mind; belonging to the thinking subject rather than to the object of thought
http://dictionary.reference.com...
This doesn't mean emotions. It means having a viewpoint where objective truth does not exist or cannot be found.

As I have shown, debates aren't all invovled with objective logic. While some are obective, (http://www.Debate.org...), many are subjective (http://www.Debate.org...).

I still want to see you derive two contradicting conclusions from the same premise.
Posted by NItEMArE129 8 years ago
NItEMArE129
You confuse information with logic. Logic is derived from information. Information is empirical, undeniable.

Whether you are alive or dead is not logic. It is information. therefore it doesn't support your argument.

Logic is a procession of thought. It has reasoning behind it. Subjectivity is dependent emotions. History does not involve emotion.

Debates aren't what I wanted either. Your second debate is more towards what I wanted. And since a debate requires logical reasoning, I fail to see how presenting a debate supports your point.
Posted by wjmelements 8 years ago
wjmelements
History is subjective in that there are many different viewpoints.

For example:
Resolved: Lincoln was a racist.
http://denver.yourhub.com... (Subjective Histoical Debate)
http://www.mortgagegrapevine.com... PRO
Resolved: Slavery was the primary cause of the civil war.
http://dixieoutfitters.com... CON
http://blueandgraytrail.com... PRO

Logic:
1. I am alive.
2. I am not dead.

1. I am alive.
2. I am dead.

I do not see how two contradicting conclusions can be drawn from the same premise. It just doesn't work out.
Posted by NItEMArE129 8 years ago
NItEMArE129
Explain why history is subjective then. And for that matter, elaborate on why only one conclusion can be made from one premise. Examples would be appreciated.
Posted by wjmelements 8 years ago
wjmelements
*Logic
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