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Question to Weinberg: What is the Point of Living in a Universe with no Purpose?

Gingerich: What is the point of continuing to live in a universe that has no ultimate purpose? That’s for you, Steve.

Weinberg: Well, if you don’t see the point then, too bad for you. I feel there is a point. How can I say it? There’s nothing in science that says we should look at life as not worth living any more than there is something that tells what there is about life that is worth living. It is left as an open question for us to decide on any grounds we like. And for me I enjoy life and there are things I value very much about being alive and that’s the point it has. I remember in the preface of one of his plays, I think it was Heartbreak House, George Bernard Shaw said, “Darwin has knocked centuries of dusty theology out of the room and now we don’t have any of that anymore but a the same time he has knocked out morality. And now because of Darwin’s work there is no basis of any moral principle.” I disagree. I don’t think Shaw was right about that. I think Darwin perhaps took away the idea that there was a supernatural plan which imposes a moral order - not only Darwin but science in general - but it did not say that we must behave immorally. We are left to make moral choices or not and we are free to make them. And, in fact, not only to make moral choices for ourselves but for others just as we would condemn someone else who tortured children. We’re free to find point and to make moral choices. We don’t get them from an objective supernatural world order.

Polkinghorne: There was a German atheist philosopher, Max Horkheimer, who said there was a deep longing in the human heart that the murderer should not triumph over his innocent victim. And some of us entertain that hope that the murderer will not ultimately triumph. But those that can’t entertain that hope and who live a sort of, if I might say so, a life of austere nobility in the face of a hostile world, I think that is a very - I think it is mistaken but that it is an admirable position to hold, if I may say so.

Contributed by: Sir John Polkinghorne and Steven Weinberg

Cosmic Questions

Was the Universe Designed? Topic Index
Steven Weinberg and John Polkinghorne: An Exchange

Question to Weinberg: What is the Point of Living in a Universe with no Purpose?

Complete Dialogue
Question to Weinberg: What About Scientific 'Inspiration'?
Question to Polkinghorne: Can we Prove that God does not Exist?
Question to Weinberg: On What Science Cannot Explain
Question to Weinberg: On Believing in Multiple Universes and Religious Faith


Steven Weinberg and John Polkinghorne

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Did the Universe Have a Beginning?
Was the Universe Designed?
Are we Alone?
Interview Index
Hubble Deep Field Animation
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