This prominent scientist says life is meaningless… and he’s serious |314| by Alex Tsakiris | May 10 | Consciousness Science Please Share Share on Twitter Dr. Sean Carroll makes science’s meaningless universe meme sound palatable in his new book, The Big Picture. photo by: Awesome Inc Dr. Sean Carroll is a Harvard trained, Cal Tech theoretical physicist with a long list of fellowships, awards and bestselling books, including his latest, The Big Picture: On the Origins of Life, Meaning, and the Universe Itself. Dr. Carroll is not only a respected scientist, but with his many television and movie appearances, a bit of a science celebrity. All of which makes his opinion on consciousness and the meaning of life noteworthy. I recently completed a recorded interview with Dr. Carroll. You can listen to the complete, unedited interview through the link below, or read these excerpts along with my analysis. Let me start with this clip: Alex Tsakiris: Do you really believe that all human experience can be reduced to chemical reactions in our brain? Dr. Sean Carroll: Yeah except I wouldn’t use the word ‘just’. And I wouldn’t even use the word ‘reduced’. I certainly wouldn’t use the word ‘illusion’. Before directly addressing Dr. Carroll answer to this question, I’d point out that throughout this interview I used my pet phrase, “biological robots in a meaningless universe” when characterizing Dr. Carroll’s Naturalism philosophy. I wanted to see if he’d push back, but he never did. The reason is because no matter how he spins it, that is what he’s saying. He may say “meaning isn’t built into the fabric of the universe,” or “meaning and purpose are a social construct,” but it still boils down to the idea that we’re all just biological robots in a meaningless universe. He knows this, so he never challenged my phrasing. Back to this question, when I asked if everything can be reduced to a chemical reaction in your brain, Dr. Carroll’s answer was, “yes… but I wouldn’t say just.” This is the latest script change on the consciousness question from the meaningless universe crowd. 10 years ago they would just say what philosopher and noted atheist Dr. Daniel Dennett still says, “consciousness is an illusion.” In other words, there is no such thing as human experience so get over it. But somewhere along the way they realized this message/meme doesn’t sell. You can’t tell any rational person outside of academia that everything about their minute-to-minute experience as an illusion. They’d laugh in your face. It’s a crazy idea and it just does not sell outside of their very narrow group. So guys like Dr. Carrolll have changed the script. They now say your experience is this wonderful way we have of “talking about” this “emergent property” called consciousness that happens inside the brain. The trick is to give you something that sounds like what you know (i.e. that you really exist and are experiencing consciousness… duh) while sidestepping the really big questions of purpose and meaning. And also sidestepping the huge metaphysical assumption he’s making when declaring that consciousness is entirely a product of your brain. Keep in mind, Sean is a physicist, he’s not supposed to make metaphysical assumptions. But also keep in mind that this is what he’s doing. Sean can’t say when consciousness begins. He can’t say when it ends. He can’t say what’s necessary and sufficient to cause consciousness. But he wants you to accept his metaphysics and jump through these tortured apologetics about the “fabric of the universe” because he’s really, really committed to his cosmology, and he wants you to be committed too. Unfortunately for Sean, logic gets in the way of his argument. If the universe is meaningless, and you are embedded in that meaningless universe, then there can be no meaning to your life. It can’t be any other way. If there’s real meaning in/to your life, then there’s at least that much meaning in the universe. If the universe is meaningless, if there isn’t even a tiny little smidgen of it anywhere in the universe, then you have zero chance of ever finding it in your life. But again, this is not something Dr. Carroll can sell. He knows that even with his Harvard PhD you’re going to laugh at him if he tries to tell you your life is meaningless, so he’s putting up this elaborate “yes, but…” smoke screen.