Intentionality is an Illusion

Intentionality is an Illusion


"There is at bottom no design, no purpose, no evil, no good, nothing but pointless indifference…We are machines for propagating DNA…It is every living object’s sole reason for being."

A famous biologist said that, and on atheism, it's sad but also true. One weird aspect that atheism commits one to is the denial of design—design of any sort, not just of the human body. For example, a Boeing 747 isn't actually "designed" per atheism. Why? In a discussion with renowned atheist and neuroscientist Sam Harris, biologist Dr. Jerry Coyne, himself a committed anti-theist, remarked,

"At any one point in time, it is completely the configuration of molecules in the universe—and in particular in your brain—that mandates what you do. You could not have done anything other than what you did. In other words, you don’t have any choices. You think you do, and it looks like you do, but you don’t really."

Because there is no "spirit" in atheism, there is no will. Because there is no will, there are no intentional states of consciousness. You don't actually design a Boeing 747, nor do you intend to, because as Dr. Harris notes,

"You are no more responsible for the state of your brain in this moment than you are for your height…thoughts simply arise in the mind. But the idea that we as conscious beings are…responsible for the characters of our minds, simply can’t be mapped onto reality."

Atheism commits itself to a denial of intentional states of consciousness, for which God would be the best explanation. Intentionality is the property of being "about" something, or "of" something. It signifies the object-directedness of our thoughts.  To exemplify, I can think *about* my summer vacation or *of* Jennifer Lawrence. Because, in the view of atheism, there is no will, but only physical matter, there is no actual intentionality. A rock or spinal cord isn't "of" or "about" anything—that is the realm of the mind and spirit.

But in his book, "The Atheist's Guide to Reality: Enjoying Life without Illusions," a professor at Duke University, notes,

"Since the brain cannot have thoughts about stuff, it cannot make, have, or act on plans, projects, or purposes it gives itself. Nor, for that matter, can it act on plans that anyone else favors it with. There are no plans. That’s just more of the illusion Mother Nature exploited for our survival."

So what does this all mean? Rosenberg sums it up:

➤Is there a God? No.
➤What is the nature of reality? What physics says it is.
➤What is the purpose of the universe? There is none.
➤What is the meaning of life? Ditto.
➤Why am I here? Just dumb luck.
➤Does prayer work? Of course not.
➤Is there a soul? Is it immortal? Are you kidding?
➤Is there free will? Not a chance!
➤What happens when we die? Everything pretty much goes on as before, except us.
➤What is the difference between right and wrong, good and bad? There is no moral difference between them.
➤Why should I be moral? Because it makes you feel better than being immoral.
➤Is abortion, euthanasia, suicide, paying taxes, foreign aid, or anything else you don’t like forbidden permissible or sometimes obligatory? Anything goes.
➤What is love and how can I find it? Don’t look for it; it will find you when you need it.
➤Does history have any meaning or purpose? It’s full of sound and fury but signifies nothing.
➤Does the human past have any lessons for our future? Fewer and fewer, if it ever had any to begin with.

Atheism is the conclusion that nothing has any meaning—not being, not thought; not you.

With love, always,


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *