In a universe devoid of meaning... Why give a shit about the future of humanity?

Other than the instinctual drives to procreate and survive, we are each saddled with the awesome task of creating meaning.

We had discussed on another thread "Why do we have a 'need' for the human race to continue after we are gone?" After all, every single life on the planet will end in one lifetime regardless of annihilation. Is it because of love for our children? Is it an extension of our survival instinct? Why do so many of us (atheists) make, "improving humanity" a component of our life meaning?

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atheism does not equate with nihilism

True, but why not? If meaning doesn't come from God and we aren't born with it (feral children research), then mustn't it be created by us (collectively or individually)?
the only species that knows of our own demise

So, maybe the response is just the natural outcome of understanding mortality? Makes sense.
Absolutely makes sense. I evolved a survival instinct. I need my tribe to survive, so that survival instinct is generalized to others.
The more I think about, respond to, and generally interact w/ folks around here (mainly because this is my primary venue of non-TV, non-soccer conversation), the less I think that being "saddled with the awesome task of creating meaning" is in any way relevant to anything--at least in my life. I think "meaning" as in the "meaning of life" is an anachronistic holdover from days shrouded by belief. It could be religious belief, which is the most common, but we've seen other brands of belief, too.

How is believing in a meaning to life any different than believing in a god?

They both hold out the irrelevant promise of something existing bigger than, or lasting longer than, a person. (For these purposes, I'm restricting myself to homo sapiens but I think it extends beyond that.)

I think there can be a purpose--mostly to propagate the gene factories into the future. But I think that is different than a meaning. Having a purpose does not mean it was freely chosen or that it can be freely ignored. It doesn't mean that it was "found" or "created."

I think that "meaning" is about as real as pareidolia and apophenia, i.e., the conditions are real descriptions of "non real" conditions in the universe.
How is believing in a meaning to life any different than believing in a god?

That really is my point. And, beyond the gene factory purpose, everything else is superfluous. One logical response to this reality might be extreme selfishness. Instead, what I find is LOTS of very caring people who want to "make like better" for others. I'm not judging this (hell, I'm part of it), but it is interesting to me that so many come to similar conclusions despite no real logical progression.
But we have to remember that the gene factory purposes can be more widespread and subtle than first thought would reveal. Why do people live beyond the normal age of procreation and initial physical dependence? Because the species needs the village or grandparents to take over if something happens to the parents. There's no way to predict when and to whom, so evolution is covering its bets by guaranteeing (as best it can) that (all) those new gene factories make it to their (re)productive stages. Even something like love can be evolutionary useful because it helps create a cohesive and supportive environment rather than one that is constantly buffetted by nature.
Right on... Same point Jeff is making. Caring for humanity as an extention of the evolutionary survival instinct.
Love.

Excerpted from Spiritual Fire- An Atheists View of Love:

So what is this atheist's view of love? In my view, love is an evolutionary impulse, the result of millions of years of natural selection acting on our genes, subtly shaping us to instill within us the desire and the drive to reproduce and raise families and so begin a new round of evolution. In my view, love is an electrochemical phenomenon, the result of cascades of hormones and neurotransmitters exciting patterns of signaling in certain regions of the brain.

But in my view, love is also a sublime sensation, loftiest and most spiritual of the emotions, a feeling that can move us to produce humanity's most beautiful works of art and acts of compassion, or provoke us to our darkest crimes of passion. Simply put, it is one of the things that makes us human, and for all the chaos and heartbreak it causes, our lives would be much duller and less wonderful without it. It is one of the things that makes life worth living. It is the source of our most crushing miseries and our most blissful happiness; and despite all the struggles and conflict and failures, when it works it is the most beautiful and powerful feeling there is.

There is no paradox in proclaiming both that love has a physical basis and also that it is real and meaningful. As argued in "Life of Wonder", just because we understand how something works does not make it any less special or genuine. Love is an inherent part of human nature, part of the lives of atheists and theists alike, and we do not need the approval of a supernatural being to confer legitimacy on it or on any of our other feelings. It is meaningful precisely because it is meaningful to us.

But what, exactly, is love? How are we to define it? Love takes many forms, and no one definition can perfectly express all of them. Nevertheless, there are many definitions that capture different aspects of what love is: the state where the happiness of another is equal to your own; the act of giving someone the power to hurt you out of trust that they will not use it; the desire to always be together with someone; the appreciation of a thing based on its unique qualities. But the essence, the true nature, of love is ultimately beyond words, indescribable, like all qualia. The most that can be said is that we know it when we feel it. However, there is one possible definition that I feel comes closer than any other: the feeling - and I use this word with no theistic connotations intended - of having been blessed. To be so happy, about nothing in particular, that you find yourself laughing for no reason; to view something so beautiful and spectacular that your breath involuntarily quickens and your heart surges in your chest; to wake up next to your partner in the morning and feel amazed that someone so wonderful would want to share a life with you - that is what it means to be in love.

Of course, for every exhilarating peak, there is an equally dark and lonely valley. It is undeniably true that the happiness love can produce when it works is matched in equal measure by the misery it can produce when it fails, and sometimes it seems as if it goes unreciprocated far more often than not. Some might even ask whether love has, on balance, caused more harm than good in this world. Might we be better off without it? Would our lives be less troublesome and less depressing if they were more placid and even, without the dizzying highs and lows of love?

My answer to this question is that love is far more than the desire for partnership, as important as that is. Love undergirds every noble human endeavor and inspires us to achievements that no lesser motivation could have produced. From the love of nature, to the love of knowledge that inspires science, to the love of freedom that brought about open and democratic societies and the patriots willing to fight for them, to the love of beauty that produces great works of art, literature and architecture, to the love for all feeling creatures commonly known as empathy, all that is good in this world ultimately comes from love. Were we to give it up, we would be giving up humanity itself.

http://www.ebonmusings.org/atheism/love.html
The higher evolved human self? Interesting. Love is an evolved potential in humans... hmmm... I kinda like that.
Man... That was beautiful. I almost cried.
These are such great responses! Damn, I love A/N... It is the only place I can go and find people who can take this stuff apart. Honestly, most people don't seem to even understand the questions, much less provide anything close to well articulated, logical responseS...
Damn! Is that what we were doing?? <Grin>

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