Evolution's setting in Philosophy

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aubreycnn51's picture
Evolution's setting in Philosophy

I was in my philosophy class where we discuss the "meaning of life", and unanswerable questions. The topic came up of what is the function of being human. My response to the idea initially was that human function varies between the individuals, but after due consideration I stated that human function was merely to survive, and that hobbies, pleasures, sources of pain and happiness were direct products or a collateral result from our evolution. Is there anything inherently wrong with this assumption? I'm mainly looking for feedback from atheists but any feedback would be appreciated.

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Nyarlathotep's picture
Well you could kind of make a

Well you could kind of make a bastardized argument that from an evolutionary standpoint, it would be to survive long enough to have as many successful offspring as possible. But even that is a little flaky.

Capt.Bobfm's picture
It's a loaded question.

It's a loaded question.
My Psych. teacher pulled the same thing on my class when I was in college.
The answer is purely subjective and a case can be made to refute any answer.
It's only supposed to make you think a bit deeper than young college kids are wont to do.

aubreycnn51's picture
At the risk of sounding rude,

At the risk of sounding rude, as I do not intend to be, can you show me explain how it is flaky?

Nyarlathotep's picture
It it is saying that

It it is saying that evolution has a function, or a purpose, or a goal. Evolution is just a consequence of rather obvious postulates. Assigning it a purpose or goal seems like anthropomorphism.

cmallen's picture
It's like the Capt. said, it

It's like the Capt. said, it's a thinking exercise. It came up in an ethics class I took in 1991 and think my response at the time was to ask why there had to be a function at all.

I can't speak for Nyarlathotep, but one reason the evolution and survival argument is flakey is that it assumes there is a purpose to humanity, or to life or even existance as we are capable of perceiving it in general.

A function implies a design and purpose. It is human hubris to assume that we have a specific function.

Ncgipe16's picture
I think that humans have a

I think that humans have a greater purpose then just surviving. I'm a Catholic, but coming from a non-religious angle, I think humans have a purpose and an obligation to help other humans. As far as we know, we're the only sentient life anywhere in the universe. We are the only living organisms we know of that have written languages and conduct experiments and such. I think humans are important at the very least because of the knowledge we have and the way we are able to further our understanding through experiments and inquiries and whatnot, in a way that no other life form that we know of can. I think humans are important for other reasons, but at the very least they are special because of the knowledge they can attain. I think that humans have a duty to help other humans for the benefit of the entire race, that way we can keep on discovering new things and obtaining a better understanding of the human race. Each person has a purpose to survive, but each person also has a purpose to help knowledge survive by helping the human race survive.

cmallen's picture
I agree with you that humans

I agree with you that humans are important. I think that importantness is limited to the human experience. We are important to ourselves and an argument could be made that we are importnt to our pets. We could some day be important to another type of sentient life. We are not important to the universe save the fact that we consist of matter/energy. The universe doesn't need us in this specific form, we are incidental. The notion that our purpose is to survive assumes that the universe planned to create us this way.

To put it in perspective, if we all died today, the Earth would be fine. Even if we nuked the heck out of it and burned down all the forest and spilled oil all over the place and then died, it would still be fine. It would still go about its business being what it is.

I think humans have an incredible potential to influence our environment, and that could include vast reaches of the known universe some day, but it will still only be important to us. I also think we have a beautiful ability to gain knowledge and use it to formulate predictions, ideas, fantasies, whatever. Again, only important to us; and maybe any other sentient life form on our planet or any of the myriad potentially inhabited worlds out there. None of that implies nor requires purpose.

ThePragmatic's picture


It is unusual to see a debating religious person who has such a rational way of thinking. I like it! This humanist way of thinking is lacking in many non-theists as well.

My view on the subject...

From a strictly evolutionary view point, it could be argued that all life is just a transportation device for DNA, with the sole purpose of spreading our genes. Even so, once we (the human race) got to the point of self awareness, I would argue that things have changed.

It could be seen as though we now circumvent evolution, or that this is just a new stage in evolution. Either way, we normally care about those closest to us. For most people (I hope) that scope starts to extend to larger groups of people as we grow older.
As the human race, we need to transcend the "egotistical" way of protecting only our family and friends and improve on a global scale.

Otherwise, what kind of world do we leave for our children?

Unfortunately, one major problem is that there is a mental disorder preventing most people from seeing reality. It allows them to justify beeing selfish, to not care about the future of our world and to mistreat others. It can even make them feel proud about hurting and killing innocent people, for believing in "the wrong" things or being born differently.

And we all know what that mental disorder is called... religion.

cmallen's picture
"And we all know what that

"And we all know what that mental disorder is called... religion."

I wouldn't be surprised if someday religion is seen as some sort of mass hysteria that infected primitive homo sapiens sapiens.

ThePragmatic's picture
I'm sure it will.

I'm sure it will.

Unless some religious nutbag manages to kill us all with a biological weapon or something similar, while completely convinced that he is righteous, moral and obedient to a god he has never seen or heard.

Jeff Vella Leone's picture
LOL I always called

LOL I always called Christians, victims of brainwashing whenever that button was pressed.


I am sure that one day religion will be obsolete and even be called EVIL practice.(the way I see it now).

Jeff Vella Leone's picture
Yes, humans are a factor that

Yes, humans are a factor that can effect the universe, but this does not mean they were created for a purpose.
Many things in life have different effects, it does not mean that they have a purpose.

aubreycnn51's picture
Anything that was created has

Anything that was created has a purpose, (for the creator) and anything that wasn't doesn't have a purpose. I feel that is a fair claim. But is a function the same as a purpose? If there is one thing that has to unify all people, our function, what we will always be drawn to do, what we are hardwired to do through evolution, it must be our desire to benefit our species; even if at times we have a twisted idea of how to do that.

mysticrose's picture
what purpose? We evolved for

what purpose? We evolved for a purpose and that's to live, be free and to cherish our mere existence'

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