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Does human life have value?

  1. Jul 29, 2012 #1
    I have been thinking about this recently, and I can't decide.

    On the one hand, many people bring happiness to other people and in some respect I assign value to that. But if you believe that human life has no value, then this is pointless as the people you bring joy to are worthless as well.

    But on the other hand I can't help but think that we are just biological organisms who happened by chance. The big bang happened, all the right atoms formed all the right planets at the perfect distance from a randomly formed star to create life.

    I can't help but ponder a quote from Richard Dawkins who when asked without God, what the meaning of life was. To which he replied "What makes you think the universe owes you one? If it's bleak it's bleak."

    What your opinion? Does human life, or any life for that matter have value?

    Note: I'm not trying to create a quantifiable value ranging from individuals such as murderers and the Pope, but just as a general rule.
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 29, 2012 #2
    This would almost certainly be better placed in the philosophy forum. Beyond that, the question is meaningless unless you define "value", and explain how you would distinguish between something with value and something without it.
  4. Jul 30, 2012 #3


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    I certainly place a very high value on my life! How about you?
  5. Jul 30, 2012 #4
    We certainly put some value to ourselves. Well you know what? Actually the universe does not care about us anyway. So to answer your question from universal point of view: no. Human lives are just a spec insignificant of dust among the set of stuffs that makes the universe. Whether we live or die or whatever we do, I doubt, affects universe in more than 0.00000000.....01 %
  6. Jul 30, 2012 #5


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    It doesn't meet the criteria for posting in philosophy.
  7. Jul 30, 2012 #6
    Gotta go, here comes my wife. If I don't get these chores done, my life won't be worth a nickel.
  8. Jul 30, 2012 #7


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    Last I checked, my value was Aleph3
  9. Jul 30, 2012 #8

    Char. Limit

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    What is "value"?
  10. Jul 30, 2012 #9
    Value is a human concept. Human life has whatever value people assign to it, which is often times far too little in my opinion.
  11. Jul 30, 2012 #10

    jim hardy

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    if universe was formed in state of reduced entropy
    and without intelligent beings to organize knowledge;

    and entropy increases while what remains unknown decreases;

    then to any organism that's helping that process along could perhaps be ascribed a certain number of BTU's ?

    $25 per million BTU at today's prices ?
    but do we owe the universe or does it owe us?
  12. Jul 30, 2012 #11


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    While a very good question, it is not critical to answer it in order to give the OP his answer.

    Value is a human invention. Human life has the value we assign it. Char Limit's question goes into how we assign it, but still, it's human-defined.
  13. Jul 30, 2012 #12


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    Most PFers lives have an infinite value, roughly Aleph2 , in my estimation.
  14. Jul 30, 2012 #13
    Define value.

    Value is a human made perception, there is no actual value. It is also a subjective phenomena, as proved by the fact that different people can have different values in the same thing. Epso facto, human life can or can not have value, depending on the observer. It is a subjective phenomena.

    I choose to thow out the word "value", since it is a human made perception (yes I would fall under the reductionist philosophy). Therefore, human life does not have value, neither does anything. But don't tell your children, let us carry on with our lives and accept the values that we have grown up with.

    EDIT: I see that everyone here is under the reductionist philosophy. Well that doesn't make for a very good discussion or debate! Hopefully someone outside of this philosophy will come save us from out miserable and cynical philosophy. :rofl:
  15. Jul 30, 2012 #14
    The most straightforward approach I know of is Contextual. Words of any kind including "value" only have demonstrable meaning in specific contexts. Life, the universe, and everything is not a specific context. The word become meaningless gibberish in such a vague context that anyone is free to interpret how they wish.

    P.S.- Dawkins is a jerk in my opinion who makes up words and definitions willynilly to promote his personal agenda of attacking religion and even agnostics who don't support that agenda. Why anyone would ever take any philosophical waxing of his seriously escapes me.
  16. Jul 30, 2012 #15

    Ivan Seeking

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    Does my life have value? Do you mean right now, or eternal, everlasting value?

    At the moment my life has value to me and a few other folks. As for absolute value, that's a religious question.
  17. Jul 31, 2012 #16


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    Human life has value to most people. The reasons why don't really matter, only that it does in my opinion. Does a banana have value? It does to me. To someone allergic to the color yellow it probably has little value.
  18. Jul 31, 2012 #17


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    People don't value what is abundant and not scarce: they also often don't value what is not in any way important or connected to themselves and the closer personally something is from the person, the less it is valued. This is not new and is known to military men who train soldiers for war and brutality.

    The other thing is that only after disasters do things become more valued and taken seriously: when things are going well, there is no need to treat things as if they were scarce or sacred, but when things go to hell, this is when value is brought into perspective and when the things that are truly important become important.

    Why would it be any other way? If you went from a situation where you had water to where you didn't, you would realize the value of water. If you went from having a bunch of friends to them all dying, you would then realize the true value of friendship. If you are married and lost your wife/husband, you would understand the value often a lot more than you did before.

    Human life will have more value when there will be a disaster whether a local one to the person involved (like the above) or whether a global one and until then, I'm afraid a lot of people will probably highly under-value the value of human life.
  19. Aug 3, 2012 #18
    almost certainly. 'value' is a human concept. thus as long as at least one person thinks a human has value then that human has value.
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