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Value of human life: a naturalistic absurdity
Philosophy isn't just a boring class you take in college. Our life philosophy determines the core values of society and ultimately the direction our lives take - individually and collectively as both communities and a nation. I've become very interested in this subject, giving it a good amount of thought. It's become apparent to me that the root difference between a civilized society and savagery is not in factors like intelligence, knowledge and strength, but rather essentially the level to which that group of people values human life. This value of human life is unique in that it ascribes inherent value to not only the individual, but equally to others. From this core value springs all of the good things we enjoy as civilized society - science, medicine, a criminal justice system, safety measures, respect, love, friendship, heroism, charity - the list is endless.
The big question then, is where do we get the idea of our lives having value?
Inherent value of human life, that is, the value that one ascribes to his fellow man (either equal or above that of his own life), cannot be derived through naturalistic means. Such a concept is absent in nature. Naturalistically speaking, all organisms do simply whatever it takes to survive and satisfy its own instincts. Protecting the lives of others in the 'community' (such as in the case of ants, bees and birds) is only done when it is convenient to individual survival (or the survival of one's direct offspring). Otherwise, nature is a morally-exempt free-for-all of instincts and impulses to satisfy the wants and needs of the individual, with no thought or concern for the lives, happiness or welfare of others. No means to that end are unacceptable in the animal kingdom, for example, where acts of murder, theft and violence are morally inert.
So, absent a God - and more specifically, a moral obligation and personal accountability to that God - what makes humans different from the rest of nature? Naturalistically speaking, absolutely nothing. We have no natural 'right' to claim that our lives have any more inherent value than that of insects, spiders and microbes. Naturalistically, we ultimately have no solid foundation to even claim any 'rights' at all, for that matter.
Any attempt to derive a worldview of human life having value in a purely naturalistic sense is, to paraphrase Agent Smith in 'The Matrix', "a construct of a feeble human intellect desperately trying to find meaning and purpose". It would be no different than a housefly, rotavirus or algae trying to do the same. Any merit we ascribe to progress, welfare of our fellow man, advances in science, pleasures in life, longevity, happiness, living 'life to the fullest', and so on - is nothing more than a thinly vieled self-deception away from the harshness of our true irrelevance in a cold, Godless and indifferent universe - no more outrageous than the supposed self-deception of believing in a God that allegedly does not exist.
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