In the recent post on Occam’s Razor, we touched on this topic, instigated by Boz.
There seem to be two types of answers to this question. And I think that is the root of a certain degree of frustration with science.
If you ask a scientist or most atheists why we are here, they will give a more or less detailed description of how we came to be here. If you stop them and say, no, you misunderstand; why are we here? They might say something like “science can’t answer that kind of question” or “that question is strictly meaningless” or “there just is no reason, we just are” or “if we weren’t we wouldn’t be having this conversation”.
Science generally lacks teleology: the idea that there is a purpose to things. Teleology is deeply engrained in our psyche. You could call it a psychological bias. And it seems clear to me that as such, it is going to be wrong in some cases. Some things have no purpose, but that doesn’t stop our minds desperately searching for one. Or feeling deeply dissatistifed if we can’t find one.
Here religion is very good, of course, it provides answers to those questions. Why are we here?: “you were created in the image of God to enjoy relationship with him for eternity.” Simple, beautiful, and (in my opinion) wrong.
I wonder if we as atheists could do a better job of helping people break free of religious dogma if we were more sensitive to these questions. I’m not sure what a great answer would be, but the lack of a good answer I’m pretty sure is a problem.
Religious or not, how would you answer (or reject the premise of) the question “why are we here?”