Tuesday, 23 October 2012

The Universe is Just There.

"The Universe is just there, and that's all there is," is a famous phrase by philosopher Bertrand Russell. Many people believe this to be a satisfying answer to the age old mystery; where did we come from?

Both Philosophy and Cosmology are able to trace their roots back to Ancient Greece where the first 'scientists' looked up at the heavens and contemplated the sky above. Aristotle, one of the most renowned Greeks in theological history, wrote that;
It is owing to their wonder that men both now begin and at first began to philosophize; they wondered originally at the obvious difficulties, then advanced little by little and stated difficulties about the greater matters, e.g. about the phenomena of  the moon and those of the sun and the stars and about the origin of the universe. 
The question of why the universe exists remains the ultimate mystery, and in my opinion, rightly so. There are hundreds of reasons why the purpose of our lives should remain a mystery, not least of which to find that we do not in fact have any purpose at all. Many great men and women have argued and explained their points of view as to why they believe that our reason for existence should be kept a secret. 

Charles Darwin, for example, the first man to theorize evolution believes that "there is no purpose in evolution." Evolution teaches that life has no purpose beyond perpetuating its survival. To deduce this properly, we must understand that if the first premise, that there is no purpose in evolution, and the second premise, life is built around evolution, are both utterly certain, then it must follow that life has no purpose. Edward Humes wrote that the fact of evolution was obvious, but "few could see it, so trapped were they by the human... desire to find design and purpose in the world." This rather bleak realization states very simply that as humans we are often too desperate for answers to slow down and just think about what we see. 

Richard Dawkins said that "Humans have always wondered  about the meaning of life... Life has no higher purpose than to perpetrate the survival of DNA... Life has no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but blind, pitiless indifference." Meanwhile, professor Lawrence Krauss expressed the purposelessness of evolution as "We're just a bit of pollution... If you got rid of us... The universe would largely be the same... We are completely irrelevant."  

The 16th Century English philosopher Francis Bacon argued that the concept of purpose in nature is anthropomorphic, meaning that it is centered around humanity. This in its most basic sense implies that as humans who have come up with the concept of purpose, we can only believe that humans are the pinnacle of creation and that everything else only leads up to us. Anthropomorphism is an ingrained tendency to project human qualities and ideals into natural phenomena, whether consciously or not. However this tendency may be wrong and even assumptive. As much as we might like it to be so, we cannot just infer that humans have to be the center of nature without having any prior evidence that such is true. 

To be honest I have to agree with all of these points of view. It is comforting that we feel there is more to our lives than we perceive, but what if we are completely wrong? Dinosaurs and mammals of the Pleistocene Age paved the way for humankind by providing oil for our cars and machines with their own corpses, and I am certain that that is not what they felt was the purpose in their lives. They simply got on with surviving and thriving in their harsh conditions as much as possible. 

Therefore, I have to ask the question, what if we were to simply pave the way for a greater species in the future? We might not know it yet, and indeed we may never know it, but it could happen! Someday humans will disappear from the face of the earth, and then we really won't matter anymore. I feel as though we should have a more hedonistic view of life, seeking pleasure and contentment. The human life is so immediate, so small and quick in the vast stretch of time in which the universe has been expanding. 

Why do we waste our time fighting petty wars and arguing about whose idea for the purpose of living is right? Instead we could just be living and trying to find that by ourselves. When you consider that if you laid out the timeline of the universe onto the length of a football pitch, that the entire history of humanity can be marked on that timeline with the sharp point of a small pin, it really revolutionizes your ideas of our significance. In that small time we have made ourselves the very worst we could be, though many consider that the purpose of living is to be good and prepare for the afterlife.

I am an agnostic theist, and as such I do not follow a certain religion. I have my own views about faith and about humanity which others may share, and as an educated girl, brought up in a Catholic faith, I can question my own beliefs and decide for myself what I believe in. Personally, I believe that there is a higher being than ourselves, as some deity had to have created us. However, I do not believe that we have sufficient mental capacity to comprehend this, and therefore we will never truly understand the purpose of ourselves and of the universe. Humanity does not and will never possess the required knowledge to justify the beliefs that many religions hold.

I do not mean then that I do not believe that all religions are fraudulent, only that it does not matter. We are constantly fighting over religious beliefs, to see who is right and who is wrong. We judge each other and kill each other and argue incessantly over the same thing said in a different way. The idea of religion is not able to proved or falsified and therefore the fight is utterly pointless. I feel it is right to believe in something. Humans need that idea of hope and salvation to survive. If all of humanity were nihilists, that is to believe in nothing including love and success, then we would never have progressed past the stone age.

We should all slow down, learn to accept other people's views as possible alternatives to our own beliefs and just live for ourselves. We sometimes feel that we are not wanted or needed, and indeed the world does not want us. However we exist, and we know this because we think. RenĂ© Descartes coined the term 'cogito ergo sum' = I think therefore I am. This means that someone who is wondering whether he or she exists is  proof that something exists to do the thinking. This thought forms a foundation of knowledge and while other knowledge may be a figment of imagination, we have to agree that you must first exist to have an imagination.

Because we exist without as it seems, a purpose, we have come to create our own. Immanuel Kant said that "Time, Space and Causation are construct of the Human Mind" and of course we need that sense of order in our lives to make sense of it all, so that we can co-exist harmoniously. We have recognized time as a unit of measurement and we often believe that if we do something, it inevitably causes another thing to happen. Therefore the careers and families that we bring up are not pointless in our minds.

When humanity looked and did not find a purpose, they created their own. We work hard, innovate and procreate and although we do not know where this will lead in the long run, we can assume that as far as our own lives go, reaching the top of the career ladder and raising children to be happy and successful adults, is the basic human purpose.

However, I feel that there may be a far more basic purpose than this. Whoever put us here, whoever created the beautiful world around us (that we are currently destroying) must have had a reason, and in my opinion it was simply to watch us grow. We are good people generally and humankind is kind. To me, in this random and changing universe without a great apparent need, our purpose is just to love each other. It is the basis of almost all religions and it is the instinct of our hearts.

No comments:

Post a Comment