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What is the Meaning of Life

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Lesson 23 of 208
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Moral Intuition

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What is the Meaning of Life? Program 23 Moral Intuition by Ernest O’Neill

What is the meaning of life? No meaning at all. It is just the result of the chance collision of atoms billions of years ago, in space, whose origin we do not understand. Or, it is the result of a massive explosion, which has produced this ever-expanding universe in which we live. Or, it is the result of a single-cell amoeba, found on the scum of some pond, the origin of which we cannot explain. Or, it is the result of evolution. Or, it is the result of some decomposing substance.

Such is the kind of explanations you and I have grown used to hearing over these past few decades. It is the result of these explanations, as we call them, that we now have a population in most parts of the world that is absolutely bewildered about the reason for being alive at all. So we produce pop songs that ask the question, “Is that all there is? What we do here in life, is that all there is to it? Is there no other meaning in life but this eating, and sleeping and drinking and dying?”

Many of us have concluded, because of our own bewilderment about the origin of the world, that that is all there is. What we have been talking about over these past few weeks here on this station is, whether that is all there is. Of course, what we have been sharing is that there is some indication that this world is not the result of a chance collision of atoms. It is not the result of time plus chance.

It is not the result of a simply mindless, evolutionary system of development. It is not just the result of an impersonal “élan vital”, or cosmic force. But there are indications in our world that there is some thing or some power behind this universe that had something in mind in creating it in the first place. If there is such a power or a force, then you can see that that is very important for your own life.

If there is some thing, or some power, or some creature that lies behind this world, and had something in mind when you yourself appeared on the scene, then that is a vitally relevant situation for you to know about. We believe there is much circumstantial evidence that points in this direction. That’s what it is, first of all. It’s circumstantial evidence. That is, it’s evidence that suggests that this is the very logical explanation of the phenomena that we see around us.

So, if you go outside your door one day, and you find a bone, partly gnawed, lying on the ground, you conclude from the circumstantial evidence not that your brother has been finishing his lunch again outside your door, but that your pet dog has left his bone again in the corridor. That’s what we mean by circumstantial evidence. It’s a very reasonable explanation of the phenomena that we observe.

That’s the kind of evidence that we have been talking of in regard to the origin of the world. We have been saying there are indications that suggest it is very reasonable to posit the existence of some power or force that has intelligence and that is at least as personable as we are, that lies behind the universe, and is responsible for it.

You remember, we put ourselves in very good company when we say that, because you remember, Albert Einstein, after a lifetime studying the design and order in the world of astronomy, and the world of physics and mathematics, made this statement: “My religion consists of a belief in a superior Being who is responsible for the slight details we are able to perceive with our frail and feeble minds. That deeply emotional conviction of the presence of a superior, reasoning power, which is revealed in the incomprehensible universe, forms my idea of God.”

So Einstein says that from the order and design that I, with my little mind, am able to perceive in the universe, I conclude that there has to be an intellect that is also personable, that lies behind the universe. Of course, Darwin, the other great scholar from whom many of us have derived our present views of the origin of the world, concludes his famous treatise “The Origin of Species” with this sentence, “There is a grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed by the Creator into a few forms or into one….”

So both Einstein and Darwin say that the circumstantial evidence that comes from studying the order and design that is inherent in our world, the order and design that you see in the periodic chart of the elements, the order and design that you see in the circulation of the blood, the order and design that you see in the muscles throughout our body, the order and design that you see in our heart and the operation of our eyes, the order and design that you see in the regular orbiting of the planets, the order and design that you see in the very structure of the atom — that order and design suggests that it is very reasonable to believe that such order and design could result only from an intelligent mind that purposely set out to create such a universe even if He used evolution as the method by which He created it.

What we have been sharing, of course, is that there is other circumstantial evidence beyond the order and design of the universe, beyond the personableness of us as persons. We’ve been talking, you remember, about the feeling of moral obligation that we all have: the feeling that we ought not to be selfish, even though we find it easiest to be selfish. The feeling that we ought not to lie, even though we find it easiest to lie. The feeling that we ought not to be cowards, even though we find it easier to be cowardly. The feeling that we ought not to insist on our own way, even though we find it natural to insist on our own way.

There is within us, a kind of gyro-compass that tells us we ought to live higher than we do live. That is further circumstantial evidence that there may well be some power outside of us, beyond space that is sending signals to us of wishes and of a will that is higher than our own. Of course, all of this comes home to you very reasonably, I believe. Most of us, faced with the existence of the world, most of us who have ever sat by the ocean and have watched the power and the might of the waves, most of us who have ever looked up at the stars and been amazed at the power and force that holds them there, most of us who have realized that people don’t fall off Australia even though they’re standing upside down on our earth, most of us from a very early age intuitively sense that, of course, there is some power that is beyond ourselves, that is also personal and is intelligent, that has created our world.

That thought springs up very naturally in most of our minds. It’s an intuitive sense that we have. That existence of intuition in regard to the existence of God has been among us men from the very beginning. It has existed in the earliest tribes, in the most primitive peoples, in the least educated, and in the highest educated. People have always sensed intuitively there must be a God somewhere.


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