Atheists Talk: John Rawles on "The Matter with Us"

Once we have rejected the spiritual, we are left with the material. That should simplify our lives, right? Not necessarily. As John Rawles book, The Matter with Us: A Materialistic Account of the Human Predicament, notes on its title page:

The bridge of spaceship Earth is deserted; nobody is in charge. Down below, the passengers are fighting amongst themselves, damaging the craft, looting the stores, and squandering the reserves. As a fellow passenger it gives me no pleasure to report what I see. What’s the matter with us that we should behave like this? Surely, we would all prefer that many future generations should continue to enjoy the cruise of a lifetime in safety, comfort and good health; but that seems unlikely. And it was such a beautiful ship.

Of course, the situation isn’t all doom and gloom either. We got ourselves here, and at least for now, we have some choices about where we go next. Join us on Sunday as we talk to John Rawles about how we got where we are and what we can do to make sure the cruise goes on.

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Atheists Talk: John Rawles on "The Matter with Us"
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2 thoughts on “Atheists Talk: John Rawles on "The Matter with Us"

  1. 1

    Please if the conversation allows, ask if he credits anyone for the very useful metaphor of an out-of-control Spaceship Earth? It was Buckminster Fuller who made the idea explicit in 1968, and worked with Disney to create the Spaceship Earth exhibit at Epcot. But much earlier it was Robert Heinlein for popularizing the idea of a “generation ship” whose crew has lost the knowledge that it is a ship — used later in Star Trek and books by Murray Leinster, Brian Aldiss, and Gene Wolfe.

  2. 2

    The bridge of spaceship Earth is deserted; nobody is in charge.

    Poetic, but it really isn’t a very good analogy since there is no bridge and no controls with which to operate this planet and thus no need for someone to navigate it.

    As a fellow passenger

    Instead of passengers, we would be more like the descendants of stowaways on a tremendous, leaking ship that has been permanently disabled and is not adrift in space but caught in the gravity well of a larger cosmic body.

    When the analogy is better, though, it erases the need to commandeer the ship and makes it a need to not squander our own little group’s ability to survive on it, which will still take massive amounts of human cooperation.

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