Five Questions Science Can’t Answer
Richard Dawkins assures us that there is “at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil, no good, nothing but pitiless indifference.” If this is so, the universe and the human race are inexplicable. Both cry out for a purposive explanation; that is to say, they were brought about by someone for a reason. The physical sciences cannot appeal to purposes, so Dawkins must leave certain fundamental questions unanswered.
Our universe could have been chaotic; instead it manifests exquisite order, abundant beauty and has brought about a living world. These are states of affairs that any rational agent would value. Science describes a universe that consists of physical particles which follow particular laws. Scientific explanations terminate in physical objects and laws; they cannot tell us why these objects exist, and why they obey laws.
2) So What?
Eventually this universe will collapse into a fireball or become dark, cold and lifeless. If we, our species, and the beauty of the universe are all destined for oblivion, and if no trace of conscious memory will remain, our lives do not have the meaning that we require.
3) Says who?
Science can, at best, explain the origins of our moral feelings. This does not tell us if there are moral values that correspond with those feelings. True values could not change according to our whims; nor could they be composed of particles. If the space-time universe is all there is, we must deny morality, or accept that it is inexplicable.
4) Why bother?
Assuming there really are moral values, why should I pay any attention to them? Why should I put personal advantage aside if, in the long run, we’re all dead and as meaningless as dust? Why shouldn’t I develop my career, my social life and my tastes instead of developing moral virtues? Why should I worry about the effect of my actions on future generations? I won’t be around to see the consequences. There isn’t any point to moral values in a purposeless universe. I cannot be obliged to give them any attention.
5) Should I ….?
Science might, one day, report which actions best satisfy human desires. But human desires will conflict; why should we privilege some over others? How can we decide on the best course of action? If we are the result of an unguided process, there is little hope that our desires will guide us to a good life. Furthermore, if our world is purposeless, there is no reason to think there are moral goals that we should pursue.