Richard Dawkins and Daniel Dennett- On Death

Aug 4, 2015

This conversation between Richard Dawkins and Dan Dennett is raw, unedited footage from “Sex, Death and the Meaning of Life”, a 3-part Channel Four TV documentary presented by Richard.

At the end, at the request of the Director, Russell Barnes, I read the last lines of Unweaving the Rainbow.

6 comments on “Richard Dawkins and Daniel Dennett- On Death

  • I fear pegging the value of one’s existence on the books one has written or music composed misses an awful lot of humanity. There is an innate desire in each human for their lives to have some lasting meaning. That there may be none for the great majority of humans makes atheism a difficult sell at best.

    I will likely have not even a temporary impact on the universe when I am gone and it is rather a depressing prospect. I have written no books nor composed any songs and I am childless. This doesn’t mean I seek some false solace in religion or other spiritual claptrap. But I have the feeling I’m not the norm in that respect. I have come to terms with the fleeting nature of mine and everyone else’s existence. I am an optimist though and others might not be so cheery in my same position.

    Just saying. If we want the great masses to abandon the superstition of religion, we as atheists might need to find a little more compelling reasons to reject an afterlife than leaving behind a library or opus.



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  • @Jon,

    I enjoyed reading your comments and thought you might appreciate some feedback (and a few rhetorical questions).

    I fear pegging the value of one’s existence on the books one has written or music composed misses an awful lot of humanity.

    Is it even possible to peg the “value” of one’s existence on anything?

    Where does “value” come from?

    There is an innate desire in each human for their lives to have some lasting meaning.

    What do you suppose is the source of that “innate desire”?

    What do you suppose is it’s “purpose”?

    Where does “meaning” come from?

    What is your definition of “lasting”?

    That there may be none for the great majority of humans makes atheism a difficult sell at best.

    The story that science tells us is that there is no such thing as “lasting meaning”, so in actuality there is none for all humans, and indeed for the entire universe. Those who are “selling” atheism are not doing so to help humans find or create meaning. Humans have been doing that for millions of years. They are trying to change the basis of the meaning.

    I will likely have not even a temporary impact on the universe when
    I am gone and it is rather a depressing prospect.

    You definitely have already had and will continue to have a “temporary impact on the universe”. But even if you had none, why should that be depressing? Why does it matter? Do you think that it will make a difference that you will be able to sense once you are “gone”?

    This doesn’t mean I seek some false solace in religion or other spiritual claptrap.

    In what way is it “false solace”? How is religious solace any more (or less) false than any other solace?

    Is there any solace that is not in some way “false”?

    If we want the great masses to abandon the superstition of religion,
    we as atheists might need to find a little more compelling reasons to
    reject an afterlife than leaving behind a library or opus.

    First, “leaving behind a library or opus” would not be the reason to “abandon the superstition of religion” and “reject an afterlife”. Presumably, the “reason” to do those things would be to make your life and the lives of current and future others “better” than they are or would be otherwise. So far, we have no indisputable proof that this prediction is valid (pending an objective definition of “better” for this context). I think it’s reasonable to expect that some lives will be made “better” in some ways while other lives will be made “worse”. As far as the universe – the space-time, the matter and energy (oh, that’s right, they are one and the same), and the rules it “follows” – is “concerned”, what “matters” in the long run is which behaviors result in leaving the most progeny to repeat the process into the future, because that’s what the matter we are made of is forced by the rules to do, for no particular “reason” that we are able to discern. To believe otherwise would be unscientific, unreasonable, deluded.

    Based on my experiences and readings on this site and others, it’s not so much about “finding” reasons and value and meaning as it is about “making” them, for there are no reasons, there is no value, and there is no meaning that exists outside of human experience and concerns. That’s what science tells us.

    (So far, however, I have not been able to figure out what ingredients reasons, value, and meaning are actually made from.)



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  • I totally understand what you guys are saying, but it is coming from a financially comfortable and white male point of view. I think someone in a devastated country who’s government steal their meager rations has every right to complain and ignore the tree. For some, there is too much stress to be denied the right to act outwardly in the face of it. A young woman is beaten and battered by her husband has no time or conception to stop and ponder natures gifts. Her immediate goals are for survival. As for the majority of western society who’s day is ruined because they were late for work and their cell phone is doing something funny and they fall to pieces, yes, I would agree with you fully there.



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  • …coming from a financially comfortable and white male point of view.

    You really have no way of being certain about either of those assertions, but whether they are true or not has no bearing on the validity of my assertions.

    someone in a devastated country who’s government steal their meager
    rations has every right to complain and ignore the tree.

    I can’t figure out what you mean by this.

    I totally understand what you guys are saying… I would agree with
    you fully there.

    I must be missing something… You’ll have to help me out with what you mean by the rest of your reply.



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  • I am a hospice nurse, and a closeted atheist. Unfortunately, coming out, would not only impact my patient/nurse relationships, but also my relationship with co-workers. I have no problem participating in spiritual or religious practices with my patients if it helps reduce emotional or spiritual distress. But I find it disheartening that coming out to my co-workers would affect my validity as a skilled hospice nurse who provides end-of-life care. Thank you for sharing your perspectives on death and dying. We need to hear more of this.



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