Jaws and the Meaning of Life

<em>Jaws</em> and the Meaning of Life

Stream: What the Atheist Claim of the Meaninglessness of Life Would Mean (If it were True)

Links fixed!

There is a scene early on in the killer-shark movie Jaws which has marine biologist Matt Hooper (Richard Dreyfuss) explains to Amity’s Mayor Larry Vaughn (Murray Hamilton) the nature of sharks.

“Mr Vaughn,” says Hooper, “What we are dealing with here is a perfect engine—an eating machine. It’s really a miracle of evolution. All this machine does is swim, and eat, and make little sharks. And that’s all.”

Is this explanation true? If so, then why doesn’t it also apply to ocelots? What else besides running, eating, and making little ocelots does this carnivorous beastie do?

And if it works for sharks and ocelots, why not also for dandelions, cockroaches, and ratbirds (pigeons)? And if for them, why not for all life? Why not for you, dear reader?

After all, what else do people do except scurry about, eat, and make more people?

A bag of bones

If life can be reduced to biology, to nothing but chemical and physical interactions, then the explanation that all life, including our own, is meaningless futile repetition must be true.

Don’t pass too quickly by “meaningless.” This is the main point. If our lives are solely biology, then our lives have no meaning. This is a stronger conclusion than you might think. For it follows that any meaning anybody ascribes to any event in life is itself meaningless. Any and all moral judgments are mere prejudice, the result of particular arrangements of chemicals operating under unbreakable physical laws.

If all moral judgments are prejudice, then everything anybody ever thinks or says is opinion. And it’s forced opinion, at that. All opinions are the result of chemicals pushing this way and that, forming unwilled patterns in brains, under the control of nobody.

Who asked for your opinion?

You say rape is wrong? That’s just your opinion. Worse, it’s an opinion you have no choice but to believe, since the opinion is formed in a brain operating under fixed laws. You think murder is immoral? Well, there is no such thing as immorality, and cannot be, since for acts to be moral or immoral, acts cannot be meaningless. Meaning defines morality.

So what?, you might think. Individual people might be nothing more than their biology, because what really matters is the human race itself.

But this must be false, because []

Science is not the answer

Science cannot rescue us from this bleak conclusion.

Celebrity scientist Neil deGrasse Tyson is fond of pointing out the meaningless of life.[]

The problem of evil

What we have been discussing is the Problem of Evil. If atheism is true, if life really is nothing more than biology, then []

Put some meaning in your life and click here to read the rest.


I was having a debate with an atheist over this Stream article. He insisted that “not causing unnecessary harm” (à la Sam Harris) was the atheistic objective moral judgment sought. It isn’t, as the word “unnecessary” proves. Causing any harm, necessary or unnecessary, is without meaning, if atheism is true.


  1. Ted

    You are an animated collection of bones built from remnants of exploding stars, standing on a rock hurtling through the empty universe.

    Fear nothing.

  2. Olivier Paradis Béland

    Sir, you need to fix the links to the Stream article.

  3. John B()

    Briggs’ link appears to be to a comment somewhere

  4. That’s quite a blizzard of philosophical and logical blunders. Leaves me reeling. Rather than try to walk you through the highlights of the past few centuries of Western philosophy, I’ll just recommend this remedial text: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0085959/

  5. Tiredoferror

    Dear ted, you are actually a human Made in the Image of God. Your gnosticism leads you to think that if you pretend to be meaningless, then you cannot be judged for all your evil. That is absolutely absurd and we both know it.

    Dear lee, Brigg’s comments leave without any valid response. This is why you sneer instead of saying anything of value. Though your written works prove there is not many ideas of substance going on inside the head of “lee phillips.”

    I can walk you through the highlights of “western philosophy” rather easily. It is merely death worshipping pagans trying to adopt gnosticism because they ridiculously think denying God will allow them to become omnipotent. Your link to trashy movies and your non-argument gives a nice example of the banality of that. Your position is so untenable and so based on trying to unhinge the universe to deny your shame that you have little stopping you from totally going insane.

    I will close with a quote from GK Chesterton about this malady you share:
    “The modern mind is more like a motor-car on a lonely road which two amateur motorists have been just clever enough to take to pieces, but are not quite clever enough to put together again. Under these circumstances kicking the car has never been found by the best experts to be effective. No one, therefore, does any good to our age merely by asking questions—unless he can answer the questions. Asking questions is already the fashionable and aristocratic sport which has brought most of us into the bankruptcy court. The note of our age is a note of interrogation. And the final point is so plain; no sceptical philosopher can ask any questions that may not equally be asked by a tired child on a hot afternoon. “Am I a boy?—Why am I a boy?—Why aren’t I a chair?—What is a chair?” A child will sometimes ask questions of this sort for two hours. And the philosophers of Protestant Europe have asked them for two hundred years.”

  6. Briggs


    Stream changed the permalink on me and I didn’t even think to check. Sorry. All links now repaired. And thanks for John B() for the help!

  7. Sander van der Wal

    In a proper Universe you do get meaning out of quarks and electrons just whizzing around. That’s how you know you are in a proper universe, you can know.

  8. JH

    What is a meaningful human life? To me this question is ambiguous, but it seems that you speak as if know the answer. So, what is it? Can life have such meaning? What must one do or have, in order to live a meaningful life? Or what are the necessary conditions for a meaningful life?

    Without the answers, I cannot make any sense out of this post.

    If believing in God is a necessary condition for living a meaningful life, then congratulations and be happy that you have a meaning life. If that is what you believe, then live your life according. Your life, meaningful or not, your choice. Please don’t pretend that you follow a better moral code.

    Causing any harm, necessary or unnecessary, is without meaning, if atheism is true.

    So, if causing harm has meaning, then atheism is not true? How does one judge if atheism (a lack of belief in God)? What is the “meaning” you are talking about? Why is the claim true? Because some atheist happens to be a materialist and believe that animal life is meaningless?

    There are brands of Buddhism, Confucianism, Jainism, humanism, …, and so on that deny or simply ignore the existence of gods, but fail to meet the definition of materialism.

  9. JH

    This post reminds me of the following words.

    “What is the meaning of human life, or, for that matter, of the life of any creature? To know an answer to this question means to be religious. You ask: Does it make any sense, then, to pose this question? I answer: The man who regards his own life and that of his fellow creatures as meaningless is not merely unhappy but hardly fit for life.” ~ Einstein

    “We don’t know what life is, even with the fact that we are living it, how could we know for certain about afterlife? “ ~Kong-zi (Confucius)

    “To be humane is what it means to be human.” ~Meng-zi (Mencius)

  10. Ken

    Ditto to Lee Phillips: “That’s quite a blizzard of philosophical and logical blunders.”

    Consider this one:

    “If life can be reduced to biology, to nothing but chemical and physical interactions, then the explanation that all life, including our own, is meaningless futile repetition must be true.”

    That’s rejected viewpoint; meaningfulness is ascribed to an association with a higher power & authority — God.

    But could meaningfulness for humans derive instead from an association with lesser beings (e.g. robots the humans made to worship and operate per the human-issued morals, or even dominance over lesser creatures such as dogs)?

    Seems unlikely.

    Consider creation from the perspective of God — with perfect knowledge and wisdom that sees the future (e.g., per Islam so much that happens is beyond individual control and is the “will of Allah”), what difference is God’s situation relative to humanity from humanity’s relative to human-made robots or pets [other than eternity]?

    The implicit logic being applied — meaningfulness derived from a higher being — renders the ultimate being meaningless at the point of the highest being.

  11. Plantagenet

    …errr no actually. If there is no arbiter then there is no meaning. You seem to be simply arguing for a different arbiter. The question is if the arbiter has no absolute ability to decide then there is only opinion.

  12. Plantagenet

    ….and while we are at it (Lee) the arguement did not begin with the Enlightenment. This has been going on since Hume was a glint in the publicans eye. If you think that 200 years of philosophy has answered the question you are about 2500 years off. The idea of a meaningless universe has been around a wee bit longer than you think. At least Fred Nietzsche had the sense to be scared by the idea.

  13. Plantagenet

    …and, by the way, the notion of a meaningless universe did not begin with the enlightenment. It’s about 2500 years older than that….at least.

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