[Avodah] Secular Ethics

Rich, Joel JRich at sibson.com
Thu Sep 13 01:27:41 PDT 2018

As part of my continuing search for understanding why an atheist might
feel bound to ethics, I read an interesting book, "Finding Purpose
in a Godless World; Why We Care Even if the Universe Doesn't" (Ralph
Lewis, MD).

How can you not love a book that quotes Ozymandis, the introduction
to the Stone Chumash, R'W Goldstein and includes the quote, "We were
also members of a synagogue community at that time-and orthodox one
at that. (This seeming contradiction between non-belief and religious
community affiliation is not unusual among Jews)" ? Interestingly,
it was his wife's cancer (and recovery) which pushed the author from
agnosticism to atheism!

The book's thesis is

1.) Humans find patterns where they don't exist and this historically
caused people ("religious" or not) to believe in a purposeful universe,

2.) But now science can explain cosmology and how our brains (minds-it's
all bio) operate. (Fairly good summary of current thinking in these

3.) We now know (or at least can say it's likely) that all the perceived
directedness (our values and ethics) is not due to a prime mover but
are natural (evolution) development. It's all random!

4.) Science and religion are diametrically opposed and we can have
meaning without religion-we're significant to each other.

5.) Our evolution, quest for knowledge, and morality (very Pinkeresque)
will continue forward with some bumps in the road.

So I didn't "like" the book primarily because he never answered the
question of why an individual who didn't "feel" hard wired by evolution
or any other internal drive would have any reason not to do whatever
they felt like no matter what the impact. Has anyone seen a good answer
to this question?


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