I don’t subscribe to existential nihilism. This is because changing one’s neurobiology is an effective way to get a sense of meaning in life. Neuroimaging studies of conditions where people have difficulty finding meaning in life (such as borderline personality disorder or panic disorder - and of course depression) show that the brains of people with these conditions function differently than the brains of people without these conditions. Even spirituality is reflected in brain activity, as described in the posts The Biology of Religion and Epiphenom. Environmental influences, genetic influences, and other biological influences affect the organization of the brain. These factors also affect the constantly changing state of the brain. The brain is controlled by the state of the world and the physics of the universe. This leaves no room for free will, as described in the post The Best Argument Against Free Will.
Some bioethicists and even some successful people (like Steve Jobs) have been fooled into thinking that death gives life meaning. Nothing could be further from the truth. In the material world at least, the reality of death means that whatever people pursue is pointless. Whether individuals succeed or fail in achieving their goals, the reality of death makes all of that irrelevant since they and their families will die anyway and won’t be around to experience the results of their hard work. Even in a nonmaterialist world, most people still don’t want to die. As Steve Jobs said, “Even people who want to go to Heaven don’t want to die to get there.”
There are several possibilities for dealing with this depressing scenario:
1. Covering all your bases by believing in God while also living according to scientific research, as described in the post God the Programmer
3. Changing neurobiology through medications and lifestyle changes in ways that make life feel meaningful
It’s possible to pursue all three of these options simultaneously.
Research on suicide victims also shows that the brain is integral to the feeling that life is meaningful: