We concluded in our previous article that revealed religions are flawed because of how many unnecessary (and unsubstantiated) assumptions they make; and we concluded that atheism is flawed because:
a) It too requires many non-trivial assumptions about how the world came about, and
b) It does not provide any meaningful or actionable answers to the questions of meaning, purpose, or morality.
By process of elimination, it seems we are stuck with the last option — the assumption that there was a creator but that all revelations about him are unsubstantiated.
Let’s break this assumption down into 3 key parts:
There was a creator;
he created this universe for some reason and keeps it going for some reason; which means that
he derives some benefit from it — either as a pure experiment, or as an entertainment tool for those who play it.
We already saw in this fictional story that a kind of simulation-hypothesis creationism is, at the very least, plausible. In fact, given the way our computing capabilities keep growing at an exponential pace, it seems almost inevitable that a would-be creator will be able to simulate a universe like ours at some point.
But does this 3-part assumption lead us to a (slightly-less-cynical) type of agnosticism? Or could it possibly lead to a coherent morality, a purpose, or a meaning for our existence?
Let’s find out.
We assume there’s a creator. We assume he (or she.. but let’s use he because it’s one letter shorter and we like brevity) had a purpose. And we assume that he allowed someone — peers, customers, friends, etc — to play his creation in a fully-immersive manner.
Fully-immersive means they don’t know it’s a game. They feel everything that happens as if it happens to them in reality. They feel pleasure, and they feel pain.
If this is the case, would it not be fair to assume that, in our creator’s mind, inflicting suffering on other players is bad?
Killing, harming, torturing, raping, aggressing upon in an unprovoked manner — these are all rather unpleasant things for the players to whom it is done. The players to whom these things happen feel pain. Whether these players are the creator’s peers, his customers or his friends, surely he would not look kindly upon such behavior towards them, would he?
This assumption alone might explain the one universal that we see across human cultures: inflicting harm on another human is generally considered bad (with notable historical caveats, e.g. that the most common excuse for why inflicting pain on other humans is good is that these particular victims are somehow less-than-human).
This might well be a basic moral code, might it not?
Do what you wish, but avoid harming other humans.
It’s built into our initial assumption that the creator had a purpose in creating and in maintaining this game, so this part is trivial. The question is — what is the purpose of each player’s existence in relation to the creator’s intentions? Here we may be bound by our finite imaginations, but nevertheless we can come up with some viable hypotheses.
For instance -
1a. The game might exist to provide pleasure and entertainment for players.
2a. The game might exist to provide a simulated experiment that tests out various hypotheses without the need for a clinical trial on real subjects.
These are both viable hypotheses for what the creator-purpose might be. The player-purposes that directly benefit these creator-purposes are:
1b. Make life better for as many other players as possible (because it serves the creator-purpose of providing pleasure and entertainment to players).
2b. Make civilization progress towards higher degrees of development and complexity (because it serves the creator-purpose of simulating complex social experiments).
This might well serve as a basic purpose for people’s existence, might it not?
When in doubt, remember that your purpose is to either help others or to create something that advances civilization beyond its current state. Or both.
While traditional religions have a message that often manifests itself as some version of “God has a plan for you”, atheism provides a complete lack meaning — things happen randomly and you just have an illusion of free will to act and an illusion of consciousness to observe it all.
Our assumption seems to lead an interesting place in the middle.
Things were created; for a purpose; and with a plan. You could have a role to play, but this role was not meticulously planned by someone who pays attention to you personally, was it? The game was created, but it was not created for you — you’re an independent player and it is up to you to find your own way in it.
In other words —
No one has a plan for you.
But there is a goal for the universe.
Your existence could have a meaning if you want to, or it could have no meaning at all.
In some way, this conclusion avoids the twin traps of determinism and nihilism at the same time. It is remarkably individualistic.
Everything is up to you.