“The fact of your own existence is the most astonishing fact you will ever have to face. Don’t you ever get used to it.”
With those words Richard Dawkins launched an interesting, and less-polemical-than-the-others, talk spanning the origins of species, of life, of the universe and perhaps of billions of universes.
The universe we live in and the fact of our existence is truly a cause for gratitude. Gratitude for our individual existence and for the process of evolution which from the blind forces of physics produces all that we know and gives it the illusion of design.This make for an interesting contrast with David Benatar's suprising contention it would be "better never to have been." Each and every one of us is actually unlucky to exist! Later in the week, I'll be getting back to puzzles about procreation.
As for gratitude, Dawkins suggested it might be the by-product of the need, prior to the use of money, to keep mental accounts of what is owed and owing. Children early on develop a sense of fairness and in some cases it operates without a real target, for example “it’s not fair that it is raining on my birthday.” Sexual lust too still operates although its original reproductive benefit is no longer ‘the target.’
Dawkins suggests “we have a similar lust to calculate debt, gratitude, fairness and it’s so powerful that it goes off in a vacuum.” Such psychological dispositions might also lead us to postulate God, he said. In a pastoral moment Dawkins assured us that “this sort of vacuum activity is nothing to be ashamed of” and that the first part his talk gave sufficient reason for gratitude to be alive even though it is gratitude in a vacuum.Hmm. So gratitude is explicable, Dawkins seems to say ... but not reasonable. Gladness, on other hand, is surely unassailable. We feel glad to be alive when we ponder that we didn't have to be, and that life is good. We are grateful for x to y. Gladness fastidiously leaves out the y.