On the Meaning of Life - John Cottingham

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Coexisting with the ‘Ultimate Question’

What is our relationship with the universe – who are we and how did we come to be seems to be the ultimate question of the meaning of life. This question has always sparked powerful debates between the views of the religious and modern science. Many believe this topic is a one-sided issue where these views cannot co-exist with one another, either one’s a theist, believing in God as the soul creator and ruler of the universe or an atheist, disbelieving of a supreme being or beings. But in actuality, modern science does not count against the nature of a divine creator behind the universe. So as modern science offers an account of how things happened, religious beliefs account for a certain aspect of “why,” aiming towards finding significance and value. In On The Meaning of Life, John Cottingham argues in order to have meaning, you must not eliminate one theory from the other; modern science and religion must co-exist together.

First, what’s the meaning of modern science, and why does it contribute to the meaning of life? Philosopher Rene Descartes believed in mechanism, a theory holding that organisms are machines in the sense that they are material systems, therefore explains biological processes, within the framework of science. In order to discover a fundamental set of principles that is “based ultimately on the universal laws of mathematical physics that governed the behavior of all natural phenomena, celestial and terrestrial alike,” (6) Descartes banish teleology (any system attempting to explain a series of events in terms of ends, goals, or purposes) from science. He believed in order to conceive this unified theory there was no room for purposiveness, and since this universal law was made of mathematical physics, “there was no attainable answer to the question why” (6). But Cottingham thinks if we were to achieve and complete a [super-theory linking gravity and quantum physics] together to answer the ultimate...
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