David Malone’s “Why Are We Here?”

Doumentary Series – Why Are We Here? In four parts.
Blog background info here.

Hat tip to David Morey for the links.

The following is simply raw running notes of content topics.

Almost whole scope of my own agenda and writings. David Malone has pretty much the same rational-atheist position as myself, though I didn’t know that when I reported on being impressed with him at Hay on Wye 2016 and 2014.

Think the series loses its way a little in episode 3 and parts of 4, arguments less coherent either way, and maybe loses the focus on the question in the title. Becomes much more focussed on the existence and/or necessity of God or not.

But overall very good. Recommended and a useful resource for all the contributing talking heads from science and philosophy.


Part 1 – Meaning Seeking Beings – with or without “God”.

(David Malone and Ard Louis with many sources who have been speakers from Hay on Wye / How the Light Gets In : Marcello Gleiser, Alex Rosenberg, Peter Atkins, Denis Noble, George Ellis, Simon Conway Morris, John Cottingham, Roger Penrose, Frank Wilczec, Semir Zeki, Gregory Chaitin, Ben Okri, Sunetra Gupta, Frans de Waal, Jane Goodall, Martin A Novak, Molly Crockett, Gwendolyn Patton, and maybe a few I missed?)

Reductionism > success in science > Scientism – determinist bottom-up causation explains everything real, exclusively, end-of. No free-will etc.

Emergence > the whole is more than sum of the parts > evolved patterns and systems causally effect their component parts.

Illusion of Self

Fine Tuning – for life and intelligent human life – anthropic

The Multiverse – more “universes” than “particles” in this universe

Universe(s) from Nothing

Evolutionary Layers – Physics > Chemistry > Biology > Cognition different “laws” in each phase of evolution of the universe. (Cf Physical / Living / Social / Intellectual after Pirsig?)

Convergence – evolutionary recurrence of patterns & forms – directionality in results of increasing complexity.

Neo-Darwinists’ fear of Creationists – throwing out babies with the bathwater

(The sneering arrogance of Rosenberg and Atkins!)

Objective data vs relationships

Part 2 – The Reality of Ideas

True empirical knowledge through sensory perception – all our “objective” knowledge of reality is filtered through our lens of consciousness.

Mathematical Absolutes – beyond physics of reality – just as real, but a deeper “degree” of existence – after Plato effectively

Abstract “imaginary” mathematical concept like “i” > even basic QM depends on it.

Dirac Equation > Eugene Wigner

Truth & Beauty – scientific truths appear to be related to elegance – simple beauty and symmetries – of some kind. Beauty that “rewards” the subject.

Creativity – stuff emerges from asymmetry or broken-symmetry – the asethetic of imperfection.

Randomness – creation is “sexy” – randomness – unpredictability – is possibility of / opportunity for creation. (Not the religion of randomness – everything is chance – of the scientistic atheist.

The Sublime – true beauty is close to terror, where angels fear to tread – “awe” response to transcendence. Religious “sentiment” at peace with science.

A Different Kind of Narrative Truth – stories, narrative – making sense of reality. Even science has narratives and imagination. Stories of the facts, or stories as tempting illusions that we understand the facts.

Truth as more than those things that can be “proven”? Can narrative contain more “profound” truth than explicit content.

Part 3 – Moral Absolutes (?)

Part 3 – The Animal Within – a moral animal – a sense of knowing right from wrong

Genes – The Science of Morality? Morality as the ultimate emergent property of genes. I’m thinking what you’re thinking – Game theory compromises?

Red in Tooth & Claw? Science too narrow and pessimistic to tell us what is morally right or good.

Our chimpanzee brother. Ard Louis’s own story.

Cooperation – Evolution’s Missing Law?

Fairness & Empathy – our better nature – the Capuchin monkey unfair reward experiment.

The Moral World – religious belief?

Differences of degree and/or kind? Degree evolves to be kind – “new species”

Knowing Good – Choosing Bad – The Milgram experiments – Moral uncertainty, can’t really get inside the other person’s head.

Is ought ever a scientific question? Instinctive empathy is real. There really is a moral compass. Are they fundamental aspect of reality, like mathematical laws?

Part 4 The Moral Compass

Nihilism – A world without values. Cooperation, coordination and division of tasks (and empathy & altruism) are things that evolved by necessity at stages in our social evolutionary history.

Liberation theology of MLK

Instinctive emotional tendencies that are post-rationalised.

Moral Decisions – Emotions vs Ideas – or more like a mixture / balance of the two? The motivation comes from the sentiment before cognitive rationalisation.

More rational to believe in god? Sure, more than to be sure there isn’t. Like David, nothing I believe requires existence of a supernatural omniscient agent. My kind of atheism.

The Case Against Godscientific standards of logical argument and evidence. Leaves possibility of a god outside of physical science – transcendent god.

Unfinished Business – An afterlife? Undecided questions of how we came to be?


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