I just read an essay by C.S. Lewis on Living in an Atomic Age where he address the topic of what is the world to do with the possibility of reaching an cataclysmic end of all life. He questions the reader on what they thought of the world prior to the advent of the atomic bomb. He further responds that if nature -- the time space matter system-- is truly running down and on its way to extinction anyway then what is being proposed as potential is an event happening by the hand of humanity prior to its natural end. While this would be catastrophic, he says that those who believe it was going to happen sooner or later has only had their time line moved up. He then deals with the question of nature and whether it is all there is or of it there is something more behind it that might give hope for humanity.
He writes to the naturalist (the one seeing nature as all there is and lacking in real meaning and purpose):
"You can't, except in the lowest animal sense, be in love with a girl if you know (and keep on remembering) that all the beauties both of her person and of her character are a momentary and accidental pattern produced by the collision of atom, and that your own response to them is only a sort of psychic phosphorescence arising from the behaviour of your genes. You can't go on getting very serious pleasure from music if you know and remember that its air of significance is a pure illusion, that you only like it because your nervous system is irrationally conditioned to like it."
He also writes that "If Nature when full known seems to teach us (that is, if the sciences teach us) that our minds are chance arrangements of atoms, then there must have been some mistake; for if that were so, then sciences themselves would be chance arrangements of atoms and we should have no reason for believing in them."
Moreover he writes, "All Naturalism leads us to this in the end- to quite final and hopeless discord between what our minds claim to be and what they really must be if Naturalism is true."
Naturalist must either choose to live in accordance with their philosophy and accept the meaninglessness of all our experiences, or meaninglessness must be rejected and life lived contrary to that reality. If the latter is possible, and more desirable, could it be that the latter has more merit because it it closer to the truth than the former?
Lewis opines that, "the very ground on which we defy Nature crumbles under our feet. The standard we are applying is tainted at the source. If our standards are derived from this meaningless universe they must be as meaningless as it." Thus we have not escaped into something better for better has no meaning for as Peter Kreeft writes "without an unchanging goal you cannot judge any change as progress. So you can have no hope."
If there is nothing unchanging by which to anchor our standard of life then there is no progress made no matter what way we chose to live, nothing gets in reality any better for all semblance of "better" is a mirage. But there is hope, one can give up the mirage of "better" for the authentic "better" which is eternally rooted outside nature.
Excerpts are from "On Living in an Atomic Age" an essay by C.S. Lewis reprinted in Present Concerns edited by Walter Hooper