Why is everyone's life valuable?

Lux

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This is a spin-off from another thread "In the beginning". Since I think the discussion has shifted outside the topic of the said thread (from around post #57 - Page 3), when I made the comment below :
Ultimately, it's a decision, a choice, one has to make for himself. And I made my choice to believe in the transcendent mind. I realized, to me, if our lives are a product of a random chemical reaction, something that accidentally happened, logically there's nothing wrong if we also accidentally (or even intentionally) destroy ourselves and disappear from the universe. Because accidents don't have any meanings or purposes. And I felt I could not construct my life around that idea and live as if my life (and others' too) means something.
So ... Why is everyone's life valuable?

Some would say, "What? Do you have to ask? That's like asking why the sky is blue ... IT JUST IS!"

But if you ask the question "why is the sky blue?" to a scientific-minded person, he may answer : The colors that make up light have different wavelengths. The color with the shortest wavelength, blue, is the most easily dispersed. So, when sunlight hits the earth's atmosphere, blue's what gets scattered most.

So, it's not it just is. There's a reason why the sky is blue (to human eyes that is). I'm kind of a person who doesn't feel satisfied with the answer, it just is. I tend to ponder on pretty ordinary aspects of our lives that are no-brainers to most people. (yes, my wife thinks I'm weird.)

So I ask "Why?" to an obvious fact that most people think everyone's life is valuable — Not just yours or the lives of those who you care about or have an impact in your life, but the sense we feel in our gut "a life itself is valuable" no matter whose it is, whether you know them or not. ... Where does this sense come from?

The religious will very easily answer that. Their answer is simple.
"Life comes from God. We all are a creation of God. Therefore our lives are all valuable."

But disbelievers have to come up with an answer that makes sense from the biological point of view ...

I mentioned a long ago that my cousin's daughter has Down Syndrome. We adore her but it is tolling on the entire family, physically, emotionally, financially ... I don't think she'll ever be able to marry, much less have children. So, in the world where there's no God and the preservation of the species is all that matters, what would her worth be, or anyone who can't contribute to the society for that matter?

A famous atheist, Richard Dawkins tweeted this in answering a question from a woman who didn't know what to do if she was pregnant with a baby with Down Syndrome.

Dawkins said:
Abort it and try again. It would be immoral to bring it into the world if you have the choice.

I was taken aback by his comment. It felt so cold and I was speechless as if a strong north wind blew over my desk and blew away all the papers that I typed up about my then-worldview, Atheism. And then I felt anger for Dawkins saying that bringing a disabled child into the world is "immoral". I exclaimed, "Immoral? What a cruel thing to say! Has he no heart?" ... Then I started thinking ... Can I dispute what Dawkins said from the atheistic point of view? ... Sadly, I couldn't.

If there's no God, our so-called purpose on earth would be to survive and thrive as a species just as any other animal. The people who can't contribute to the society would only be a burden that drags us down. In the wild, only the strong will survive, and the weak will not. That's how nature keeps the balance, avoids overpopulation, maintains a healthy herd. Can I dispute that? ... Logically no, not as an atheist.

Then I knew in my gut that I don't believe in Atheism, can't construct my life based on that concept. Just can't ... and my search began. So you could say that Sara (my cousin's daughter) caused me to become a theist. Sara brought me the most wonderful gift I have ever received in my entire life albeit unknowingly to her. Now I know her tremendous worth. Sara is a Godsend.

Forgive me for sharing my little sentimental story ... but without a God who values every single one of our lives unconditionally, how do we defend the life of those who can't contribute to the society?

EDIT:
In case some of you didn't know why we are talking about a jumper (as in suicide), I'll add another post of mine here from the original thread.
DA touched upon the very reason I was forced to change my mind about the existence of God. What I mean by 'forced' is that 'logic forced me' to reconsider my worldview.
Which a great many people think as well. In order for there to be a meaning to living, there must be a MEANING to living. A reason to be here that makes being here mean something. A great many, I would go so far as to say most, people are uncomfortable with the concept that the only reason to be here is to procreate so that the species continues on forward. It seems a very cold and sterile (apt word here) kind of reality. It also takes the relevance away from the individual and puts it on the species instead.
DA is spot-on on this point. And my question would be "Why is that?", "Why do we feel that way?" ... I'd think humans are the only animals that have to have more reasons to live than just to survive or procreate.

If we and our universe are a product of an accident, 'logically' there's no purpose what-so-ever to our existence. A purpose cannot exist without an 'intention'. An intention cannot exist without a 'will'. And a will cannot exist without a mind.

The difference for me is that I can perceive reasons for relevance in the above scenario. Best way I can describe it is that difference between an outer reason for existence (a deity that gives meaning to life) and an inner reason for existence (a personal perception that gives meaning to life).
If you don't believe in a transcendent mind, I suppose one must believe "a random event accidentally produced a mind/sentience and whatever purpose a mind in a life-form may create, that purpose has no actual meaning outside that life-form". This is, I believe, what DA means by "an inner reason for existence (a personal perception that gives meaning to life)".

Let's say for the sake of the discussion, this is really the case, that our minds are a product of a random chemical reaction, thus what an accidental mind creates (an inner reason for existence) only means something to that very individual. And we should all respect and accept whatever the purpose other individuals create in their minds for ours to be respected and accepted as well. Am I right so far?

Here comes my favorite practice ... a thought experiment.
[To me this is the best way to test what we actually believe in our gut. ]

Imagine if you are driving across a bridge and happen to spot a man standing up on the handrail of the bridge ... Most of you would probably pull over and rush to that man in fear of him falling off the bridge, I'd assume?

The conversation between you and him would go something like this :

You : Please come down. It is dangerous. You could fall and die.

Him : Yes I know. That's why I'm doing it. I'm trying to kill myself.

You : Please reconsider, you don't wanna do that! Believe me!

Him : How would you know what I want or don't want? It's my life and not yours, so I can do anything with it. IfIdon't want to live, I shouldn't have to.

Here's the question. Would you say "OK.You are right." ... ???

I kinda doubt that you do. I kinda think you'd try to convince him not to jump off the bridge no matter what it takes. Given a chance, you may physically try to pull him down against his will.

See the contradiction?

Either you don't believe in "a personal perception that gives meaning to life" that can be determined by each individual, or you believe your personal perception is superior to that of the jumper, so you get to press your own personal perception onto others who don't see the same way ... Do you have that kind of right? If so, where does that right come from?

Think about it, the world population has been exponentially increasing to the point where it can threaten the whole existence of human beings. Simply put, we don't need more people, but fewer. Why not grant those who want to die their wish? Our lives are a product of an accident, so only that individual's personal perception can give a meaning to his life. And if he gives no meaning to life, then there's no meaning to his life.

... But somehow we act as if there is.

Then suddenly, the corny phrase religious people repeat all the time starts sounding not so banal anymore.

"Life is a gift from God. It's sacred."

Something other than us has already determined that a life is valuable and not to be destroyed easily, even that of one's own, which makes me think that we don't actually own it.

Indeed, "a life is valuable" is a self-evident fact, and we are not to change it. And most of us act as if this notion is The Truth whether we realize it or not. Not only that, we think there's something wrong with those who don't think this way.

This is one of the logical dead-ends that eventually forced me to become a theist.

Now onto my replies to Tea and DA ...
 
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Lux

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Pain is an experience and it's hard to quantify those. And I don't think you can ever know if someone will get better with time, but I work from the assumption that given the opportunity and the tools it is only a matter of time.
I'm not sure anyone has taken their own life who isn't in pain?
Oh I believe many have. People who lost their loved ones, people who became penniless or are buried in massive debts, people (especially kids) who are bullied, often in the cyber-world ... the list goes on.

Well okay, you could say that those people are also "in pain", not physically but emotionally. Do you approve of these people taking their own lives? Would you assist them if you were asked? — I don't think you would. It's their lives and not yours, but you can't allow them to kill themselves, can you?

So when you (and I both) think suicide (including assisted one) may be acceptable is strictly when the person is in severe physical pain and has no hope of getting better, which to me it's not that we approve of someone's decision of taking his life, but the decision of bringing his inevitable death sooner rather than later to lessen his suffering. It only applies to the people who are going to die soon no matter how hard doctors try to help.

In other words, UNLESS the person's fate was already sealed, we do not approve of people taking their own lives. In the case of the terminally ill, it does not change the outcome that this person will not escape imminent death. What we're approving is not really of taking one's life, but letting the individual 'choose' when and how, out of compassion.
 
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Lux

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Close in most respects.
IF life is a simple random aspect of what happens when you give a universe 14 billion years, then yes the meaning for life is within the individual. (That is not what I believe, more on that later)*.
So, you believe like I do that our lives on this earth are not a random event? Bear with me, I still don't quite have a good grip of what the Deism/Pantheism is that you believe in. I'm trying tho.

If it wasn't random, there has to be an 'intention', does it not? If it wasn't random, someone/something had to 'intend' all this to happen ... ? That's the only way it's not a random event, right? Like I stated in my earlier post, for an intention to exist, there has to be 'a mind' that creates the intention?

This is where you go off the rails. Though we would all find our own reasons for why we are here, we would also find reasons to live with, and support each other. Call it a biological imperative. (Which is also why atheists can have morals all by their little selves). We do better when we work together.

Biological imperative seems to be the most plausible reason for why we help each other, if there was no God that tells us "Love one another". It's a mechanism that enables the species to continue forward, right? But, one might suggest, for our species to be strong and thriving, we don't really need weaklings (sick, disabled, old or simply has no will to live) among our species, they'd consume our limited resources with little or no return to the society. Why is it wrong to think we'll be better off without those weaklings?

— I'm gonna have to make this kind of cold/inhumane statement here and there thru out the discussion to make my point, but know that this is not what I actually believe. I'm trying to ask those who're non-theists what their logic is behind why being inhumane is morally wrong, if there were no God, or even there's a some kind of God(Energy, Force, etc) but it's impersonal so 'It' can't care what we do.

The tricky part here is this philosophy only works for smaller groups. The bigger the group, the more people you have with their own ideas of what is the best way to go, creating conflicts. Which is why in our huge societies of today we tend to stick to a select few of families and friends. It is resurrecting the workable size group within the huge group.
But doesn't this create a sense of "tribalism", "us v. them"? I happen to think a strong tribalism tends to have a penchant for "exclusivism" and is one of the sources of the problems that we have worldwide today.

Yes I believe most people would try and get the jumper to back down. Not always though. There are times when we have seen crowds watching a jumper on top a building; a segment of them are shouting "JUMP". Whether morals come from outside ourselves or from within, there are always the ones with crappy morals.
I cannot believe these heartless people exist. I would go so far as to say they have no morals nor compassion. But, is this mentality 'biologically' wrong, when we have an overpopulation problem? Is it 'biologically' wrong to think if someone doesn't want to live, more (food/space/resources) for me?

The reason most of us would try to talk the jumper down is, well, probably there are thousands of variations of reasons. They all roughly come down to the same basics. We don't want to see someone throw their life away. We would want to help because if it were US on that ledge, we would hope there would be someone there to help us! Again it is not a matter of contradicting reasons why life is important; it is more that we are all alive together and we know most all of us share that desire to live. So no contradiction.
But not everyone shares your view. Like you mentioned, there're people who'd mock the jumper. What if the jumper says "this is really what I want, I don't want your help" ... ? We all have a right to think and decide what's important for ourselves even that may be something totally different from each other, don't we? So, can we force the jumper to think the way we do, that "life is important"?

Let me put it this way:

Question 1
"A life is important / valuable / an opportunity" is "one's own personal perception".

If you think "no", please explain why.

If you think "yes" - Question 2
Does everyone have to share "your personal perception"?

If you think "yes", please explain why.

If you think "no" - Question 3
Why do you try to change someone's "own personal perception" when he perceives that his life is not worth living?​

Can you answer Q3 without contradicting how you answered Q1&2?

Tea provided an excellent suggestion as to when we would want to honor a person's desire to die. Terminally ill, with nothing but constant unending pain. They want to stop suffering. Would you tell them no. I wouldn't. Even someone I loved with all my heart. In this case it is the right thing to respect that individual's wishes.
I explained my thoughts on this issue in the replies to Tea. When we grant the suffering terminally ill their wish, we're not letting them throw away their life. Their life is already numbered. We're merely letting them choose how to end it, not letting them choose death over living. It is different.

You completely lose me within this strained logic strand. Wouldn't it be equally critical for life to be sacred if there is nothing after death? It would be even more critical it seems to me. We are alive and we exist only as long as we are alive. Once we are dead we are dead. Gone. Caput. That is a powerful motive for staying alive seems to me. And just as logical as the theist thinking you posted.
The part I emphasized is "your personal perception", is it not? You don't expect everyone to think as you do, do you? If that's not a powerful enough motive for someone who wants to kill himself, then what?

If one's life belongs to that individual, you don't have a say in what he'll do with it. But if our lives belong to something that surpasses us in authority, and that something commands us not to throw away one's life, as a servant of that authority figure, I have the right and actually 'should' try to prevent someone from throwing away what belongs to my master. Because my master, whom my whole body and soul belong to, deeply cares about everyone's life, so I do too. This is my logic as a theist ... I probably lost you even more, didn't I?

I know, it's very hard for non-theists to grasp this idea ... I don't blame you. I didn't understand it either when I heard this from a Christian for the first time.

You have used your line of reasoning to come to the conclusion you have. A case can be made, which I stated just above, that a desire to live is part of the biological imperative that we all possess. That and the knowledge that once we are dead there is nothing more. Seems to me the logical dead end doesn't really exist, except that you want it to.
My logical dead-end is that if there were no authority figure that decides what is important to us, that we're supposed to obey, what right do I have to press what I think is important onto the person who doesn't share my view?

Obviously not all of us possess a desire to live, or it can be lost at some point in life, otherwise no one commits suicide. But according to a non-theistic view, it's that individual's life. Why does he have to employ 'your personal perception' that a life is important, when he doesn't think so?

*Of course as a pantheist, I do believe that the universe is alive. Every single atomic particle of it. So perhaps we do not die when we quit our living body. Perhaps our consciousness (energy) transfers back into the rest of the whole. Energy can neither be created nor destroyed!
OK ... is this like a sort of the Gaia hypothesis, but on a grander scale? Now you got me even more confused ... If this is what you believe, that we don't really die but our consciousness goes back into the whole, then what's the big deal to let each individual decide when he wants that to happen to his consciousness? Especially when his consciousness won't be destroyed?
 
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A Cup Of Tea

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Oh I believe many have. People who lost their loved ones, people who became penniless or are buried in massive debts, people (especially kids) who are bullied, often in the cyber-world ... the list goes on.

Well okay, you could say that those people are also "in pain", not physically but emotionally. Do you approve of these people taking their own lives? Would you assist them if you were asked? — I don't think you would. It's their lives and not yours, but you can't allow them to kill themselves, can you?

So when you (and I both) think suicide (including assisted one) may be acceptable is strictly when the person is in severe physical pain and has no hope of getting better, which to me it's not that we approve of someone's decision of taking his life, but the decision of bringing his inevitable death sooner rather than later to lessen his suffering. It only applies to the people who are going to die soon no matter how hard doctors try to help.

In other words, UNLESS the person's fate was already sealed, we do not approve of people taking their own lives. In the case of the terminally ill, it does not change the outcome that this person will not escape imminent death. What we're approving is not really of taking one's life, but letting the individual 'choose' when and how, out of compassion.
No, for me pain is pain, I make no difference from emotional and physical pain.
 

wil

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Someday the lives of people of color will matter...

Black lives will matter.

We will care about how many Chinese it took for each mile of railroad.

And we'll quit breaking treaties.

And then we will actually act like all lives are valuable.
 
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arthra

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Why is everyone's life valuable? Because it affords us an opportunity in this life to behave appropriately toward others and to acquire virtues....which I happen to believe is a reason for our being here...in this life. People with Down's syndrome have a variety of capacities just as other human groups..

Some individuals with Down syndrome graduate from high school and a few attend
post-secondary education.[13

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Down_syndrome

Fortunately for Mr. Dawkins somebody cared for him and provided for him.
 
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RJM

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Have you ever had the strange and shocking thought that perhaps the universe exists for yourself alone, that the world experiences itself only through you and that if your own light goes out the universe will cease to exist?

In the same way that at night my body lies asleep while my spirit wanders in a shifting universe of dreams which are as real to me as the world when I’m awake?

(EDIT: Sorry: this comment is repeated here, where it properly belongs:
http://www.interfaith.org/community/threads/18241
But I was out of Internet area before I could make the correction, and now it's been read, so I will leave it. I do apologise.)
 
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Dawkins is a highly self-opinionated person. He's one of those militant atheists who seem angry at the God they don't believe in, so direct it at the followers -- because the anger has to come out somewhere. Imo
 
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OK ... is this like a sort of the Gaia hypothesis, but on a grander scale? Now you got me even more confused ... If this is what you believe, that we don't really die but our consciousness goes back into the whole, then what's the big deal to let each individual decide when he wants that to happen to his consciousness? Especially when his consciousness won't be destroyed?

I said "perhaps" our consciousness survives death. It is equally possible that the energy that is us simply transforms back into the energy of everything else and any vestige of who we were when alive is lost. My bad. I really should have included this in the original post.

Still I am aware that you are looking for some answer to 'why we should value a life' if there is no outside source to tell us that our lives are important. (Hopefully that is relatively accurate?). It may be as simple as this. Things that are alive have an innate desire to stay alive. Even in the animal kingdom the drive is to survive and they don't have all the metaphysical doubts that we humans have. The more advanced animal species surely do have a sense of self. And they have a sense of when one of their own has died. Sometimes to an extent that is astonishing.

It may be that deep down in the recesses of our brain, embedded in the subconscious, we understand the wonder of what 'being alive' is. That it is a state of energy in the universe that is a rare and fragile form of existence. That it is so easy to lose. We are driven to live by the very fact that we are alive, and have a desire to help others to continue living for the same reasons.

I don't think this is going to be a very satisfactory response for you. Frankly I'm not that sure of it myself. It is what came to mind after not a little bit of meditating on the topic - so I throw it out there for what it is worth. :rolleyes:
 
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Devils' Advocate

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Let me put it this way:
Question 1
"A life is important / valuable / an opportunity" is "one's own personal perception".

A life is valuable is both our personal conscious perceptions as well as our social conscious perceptions. We are a social species. Which means, in part, that we share many of the same ideals with those around us. In point of fact, we as a species could do much, much better at this than we do.

We, as a species, consider many other people's lives as less than our own for all too many reasons. Ethnicity, religious creed, cast, or simply ignorant perceptions (Mexicans are rapists, drug dealers and criminals. Oh and some 'might' be okay people, too).

Is this not true whether the universe is centered on a deity or otherwise? Human history has certainly shown that our species finds many, many ways to devalue other lives even in a God centered creation
.

If you think "yes" - Question 2
Does everyone have to share "your personal perception"?

Well it sure would make things easier if everyone had the sense to agree with me. Sadly this is not the case. :p In truth, of course, everyone's personal perception on why life is valuable is different. So the short answer to the question would be 'no'. But there is also a tremendous amount of overlap within all our own separate perceptions. Shared because we are all human. No matter where in the world you go you know what a smile means. You can tell if someone is angry, sad, etc. It's like that only on deeper levels, too.

If you think "no" - Question 3
Why do you try to change someone's "own personal perception" when he perceives that his life is not worth living?

And the answer I am leading towards is that personal perception is not a binary yes or no situation. We are more than the sum of our own perceptions. We are that, of course. And we are also the sum of our collective perceptions as a race. The person who considers that their life is not worth living at a particular moment is basing their opinion on faulty data. Because a rational human does not consider committing suicide. We try to help because we believe that maybe their situation is not as hopeless as it seems.

Going back to our original situation; that of the jumper on the bridge. In point of fact we want to talk them down if we can because we are making a decision that the other person's perspective is skewed. That wanting to commit suicide is not a natural state of our species and that the jumper is thus not thinking clearly. That the jumper is confused, overwhelmed, too depressed or whatever it is that has led them to standing on this bridge. 'Normal' people do not just up and decide "Today I will commit suicide".

It is also why we should, as a species, honor the request of the terminally ill patient who is suffering. In this case we see that their wish to die is not skewed by false data; rather their decision is based on the reality they are facing. In this case we honor their decision because it is reasonable.
 

wil

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The whole thing that life has purpose...baffles me. The human race has purpose?

Well by history I guess our purpose is to make this big blue ball inhabitable to half the species that were on it when we arrived including us. Our purpose is to attempt to rule and own it all, insuring everyone else knows we were right and sanctioned by God while we destroy it and anyone and anything in our way....and we will and have literally moved mountains to do it.
 

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The human race has purpose?

Technically the discussion is are human lives valuable, and if so why. Your point is certainly related though. What is the purpose of being alive? The history of the species is not good in the purpose department. Towards each other, and towards the very planet we depend on if we are going to survive at all.
 

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Dawkins is a highly self-opinionated person. He's one of those militant atheists who seem angry at the God they don't believe in, so direct it at the followers -- because the anger has to come out somewhere. Imo
This may be an apt quotation for militant atheists from the great Einstein.

“The fanatical atheists are like slaves who are still feeling the weight of their chains which they have thrown off after hard struggle. They are creatures who—in their grudge against traditional religion as the "opium of the masses"—cannot hear the music of the spheres.”

Well I shouldn't be too snooty ... I myself was one of them:oops: I wasn't militant or anything, but I've confused where the blame should be placed. Thank God I realized my problem was not with the religion, but with the abusers of it.

I still wonder what Einstein's beliefs were at the very end of his life ... Many would say he was a Deist or Pantheist, but he also has made statements that insinuate a universe having a thought, a mind of its own ...
 
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Lux

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I said "perhaps" our consciousness survives death. It is equally possible that the energy that is us simply transforms back into the energy of everything else and any vestige of who we were when alive is lost. My bad. I really should have included this in the original post.

Still I am aware that you are looking for some answer to 'why we should value a life' if there is no outside source to tell us that our lives are important. (Hopefully that is relatively accurate?). It may be as simple as this. Things that are alive have an innate desire to stay alive. Even in the animal kingdom the drive is to survive and they don't have all the metaphysical doubts that we humans have. The more advanced animal species surely do have a sense of self. And they have a sense of when one of their own has died. Sometimes to an extent that is astonishing.

It may be that deep down in the recesses of our brain, embedded in the subconscious, we understand the wonder of what 'being alive' is. That it is a state of energy in the universe that is a rare and fragile form of existence. That it is so easy to lose. We are driven to live by the very fact that we are alive, and have a desire to help others to continue living for the same reasons.

I don't think this is going to be a very satisfactory response for you. Frankly I'm not that sure of it myself. It is what came to mind after not a little bit of meditating on the topic - so I throw it out there for what it is worth. :rolleyes:
This is a very different way of seeing the universe from mine, but I like it. It makes me kinda imagine a whole universe as a living body and we are the cells of the body. Just like our body has an immune system to fight against diseases and repair, healthy parts of the body help restore the affected cells to their functioning state for the whole body to stay alive. (= We help each other ... ?)

Here are a couple of questions tho ...

Isn't it possible that this body has a brain that sends signals to control the movement of each part of the body to continue functioning? If there's a brain, wouldn't it be possible that it also harbors a mind? (for the brain to project a mind?)

How did such an intricate living system just, you know, boom!!, come out of nothing?

Other than that, I really don't have objections to your theory ... It does make sense. (Well, that is if what I just described is close to what you picture a universe as tho. I may have completely misunderstood you! :p)
 
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Lux

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A life is valuable is both our personal conscious perceptions as well as our social conscious perceptions. We are a social species. Which means, in part, that we share many of the same ideals with those around us. In point of fact, we as a species could do much, much better at this than we do.

How do our social conscious perceptions manifest ultimately? Because there are so many different social perceptions in the world. Would they be the most popular opinions/mentalities of the particular time and in the particular culture that the majority of its members agreed?

If this is the case, how do we determine, for instance, 'an honor killing' is wrong? Or is it only wrong to us (I mean, most Americans and Europeans), but not wrong to people living in some countries in the middle east?

Just as it is very hard (or impossible) to say which culture in the world is the most superior, isn't it the same for saying which culture is more right or more wrong, if social perceptions have the last say in deciding how people in that culture must behave? Even slavery in the US two hundreds years ago cannot be deemed wrong to the people who lived in that era because that was the social perception then?

We, as a species, consider many other people's lives as less than our own for all too many reasons. Ethnicity, religious creed, cast, or simply ignorant perceptions (Mexicans are rapists, drug dealers and criminals. Oh and some 'might' be okay people, too).

Is this not true whether the universe is centered on a deity or otherwise? Human history has certainly shown that our species finds many, many ways to devalue other lives even in a God centered creation.
This is the mindset of tribalism I was talking about earlier. But come to think of it, tribalism is something all social animals (apes, dogs, etc.) that live in a group practice. For an animal to survive, it is crucial that the group you belong to is strong, preferably the strongest, so you have better chances surviving in tribal wars that inevitably happen over limited food and habitable lands.

And I'd have to say this is 'normal' or 'natural' for any group animal. We don't think other animals are evil when they practice tribalism for their survival. But when we humans do it, it's deemed evil ... why is that? As if we are given a different set of rules and expected to behave differently ...

Well it sure would make things easier if everyone had the sense to agree with me. Sadly this is not the case. In truth, of course, everyone's personal perception on why life is valuable is different. So the short answer to the question would be 'no'.

But there is also a tremendous amount of overlap within all our own separate perceptions. Shared because we are all human. No matter where in the world you go you know what a smile means. You can tell if someone is angry, sad, etc. It's like that only on deeper levels, too.
I'd say this is the tricky part. Once we deem our perceptions as 'personal', we must accept that we can't press them onto others who don't share the same view, unless you approve of dictatorship which is based on "Might is Right".

So if you firmly believe (as I do) "a life is valuable, not to be thrown away" and will interfere with others with that belief, you cannot justify it unless the notion comes from superior than any of us. Otherwise you're essentially saying that you are superior to others. If that's not what you're claiming, then you must realize you and others are 'equal', thus you have no right to take away anyone's autonomy. This is the inescapable logical dead-end we'd always encounter if we believe natural law was created by us humans.

And the answer I am leading towards is that personal perception is not a binary yes or no situation. We are more than the sum of our own perceptions. We are that, of course.

And we are also the sum of our collective perceptions as a race. The person who considers that their life is not worth living at a particular moment is basing their opinion on faulty data.

Because a rational human does not consider committing suicide. We try to help because we believe that maybe their situation is not as hopeless as it seems.

Going back to our original situation; that of the jumper on the bridge. In point of fact we want to talk them down if we can because we are making a decision that the other person's perspective is skewed. That wanting to commit suicide is not a natural state of our species and that the jumper is thus not thinking clearly. That the jumper is confused, overwhelmed, too depressed or whatever it is that has led them to standing on this bridge. 'Normal' people do not just up and decide "Today I will commit suicide".

It is also why we should, as a species, honor the request of the terminally ill patient who is suffering. In this case we see that their wish to die is not skewed by false data; rather their decision is based on the reality they are facing. In this case we honor their decision because it is reasonable.

Oh I agree with you entirely. But some might suggest "If you first think about the welfare of the society as a whole, it may be prudent to let the mentally ill die. They usually won't be able to support themselves. At the very worst, these people may become deranged, could cause tremendous harm to others such as a frenzied mass murder..." — As cold as it sounds, I cannot completely deny that this argument has some merit if you give priority to the society and the prosperity of the species first and foremost.

How would you argue that this mentally-dysfunctioning individual's life is still valuable? Screaming "That's just inhumane!" may not be enough. So, the final defense would be "God still values him, unconditionally." ...
 
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wil

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a figment of your imagination
I mentioned a long ago that my cousin's daughter has Down Syndrome. We adore her but it is tolling on the entire family, physically, emotionally, financially ... I don't think she'll ever be able to marry, much less have children. So, in the world where there's no God and the preservation of the species is all that matters, what would her worth be, or anyone who can't contribute to the society for that matter?
Just getting into this....frankly this sickens me...that someone thinks that if they didn't have a god to believe in they would lose all.compassion for their fellow man.
 

Lux

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Just getting into this....frankly this sickens me...that someone thinks that if they didn't have a god to believe in they would lose all.compassion for their fellow man.
That is not what I meant. One doesn't have to believe in a god to have genuine compassion. But God has to exist for genuine good to exist. Unselfish compassion that does not seek returns is one of them.
 
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