Would you act differently? Would you treat people differently? Would you be more prone to indulge yourself, or engage in shortcuts, or backhand your boss, or gamble all your money on red if there was no point? What would hold you back?
What if there is a point to life and you knew that for sure?
Would you be more altruistic? Would you be more happy and content with your life?
To better understand what the point of life is, and where we are supposed to go, let us first examine where we’ve been, and from where we came.
Let’s start all the way at the very beginning of what we know as the universe, of which there are only three possible starting states.
1. There is an intelligent design, with a grand designer who chooses to intervene in the happenings of life. In this universe God takes an active role in not only the creation but the maintenance of the universe. For instance, one would wonder why God would allow their alarms to malfunction causing them to be late to work, while the faithful in the population would argue that this was God’s plan and that had you not slept through your alarm perhaps you would have been right on time to be pancaked by an over-served whiskey-brained driver. Had God not intervened, you would be meeting a worse fate, and so it is better to trust in the judgment of an omnibenevolent God who knows what is best for you. In this universe, the athlete who wins the Super Bowl and thanks God for granting his team the victory may just have a legitimate point. In this universe, there also exists the legitimacy of the depressed person who wonders why God allows for their continued suffering to persist.
2. There is no God, the universe is of such a scale that given the inexplicable amount of permutations in the face of chaos, an ordered universe is an inevitable result of the chance quantum states that have been going on for an infinite amount of time. The silly analogy is having a million monkeys banging on a million typewriters for a million years and one would eventually come up with something orderly as a consequence of the sheer volume of chance events. Some mathematicians believe that if we encountered universes that were a gogoplex amount of meters across and we endeavored to traverse across this universe, then given the number of possible quantum states in the volume of space that a regular sized person occupies matched against the distance of space, we would be sure to encounter exact replicas ourselves, because the amount of quantum state possibilities is less than a googolplex, so traveling for a googolplex would all but assure a meeting with your doppelganger. Where these mathematicians miss the boat however, is in the fact that space is mostly empty rather than being filled with molecules with which to organize into quantum states. So were we to voyage forever, at the length of a googolplex, we would assuredly not encounter an exact replica of ourselves, but rather just empty space, just as the monkeys would assuredly produce gibberish, no matter how long we extended their indentured servitude as typists in our pursuit of a random, Pulitzer prize winning soliloquy. In this universe we must content with the assumption that random chance gives rise to order by simply increasing the number of events in the arena of existence, something that we simply do not see in reality.
3. The universe is the result of a design, but the designer set the governing laws in such a way that there is no need for continued intervention to set right what might go awry. In this reality, the universe was set in motion from nothing by an intelligence cool and vast. The practicing philosopher of this modality would tell you, logically so, that if there is such a governing entity as a God, and this entity’s one fatalistic job is universe creation, then it would be silly to assume that this entity is so bad at creating that there is the need for constant re-intervention. Any intervention could only be considered a mistake that must be made right, and presuming a mistake prone creator. Here gives the greatest degree of freedom to humanity, as they are made right and just, sufficient to stand, though free to fall.
Here gives the greatest degree of freedom to humanity, as they are made right and just, sufficient to stand, though free to fall.
So what does this have to do with your own individual life and what is the point of you? Now lets’ start the universe in motion, and we will assume the universe operating from the third theory.
The universe is 13.7 billion years old. Out of that span there were billions of years in which inflation was followed by the earliest star formation out of majestic clouds of stardust. Certainly - at least as far as we understand the delicate conditions of organic life - there were no civilizations arising out of this incredibly violent slice of time. To say nothing of the fact that stable rocky planets were likely not in existence at this time, the entirety of creation was so hot that we can still observe the background microwave radiation burned into the backdrop of the universe, an effect discovered by chance by operators of large radio transmitters decades ago who just couldn’t figure out why there was a persistent static in their machinery that they could not do away with. We assume that during this time, the universe would have been completely dead, with not even the possibility of a carbon based entity.
Then there is our time, the stable wedge in which we live. Cozy isn’t it?
Following this brief portion of time that is a habitable zone, we are left with three distinct and gloomy end-states to our universe. There might be a great crunch where the gravity of the universe causes it to fall back onto itself. There might be a great rip (the current leading candidate in cosmology) where the universe continues to accelerate away from itself to a point that its speed eventually exceeds the speed of light and space itself begins to tear. Or finally, the stars will eventually all burn out, leaving our universe cold, dark, and lonely. In any case, we will be hard pressed to survive these inhospitable conditions. Can we be confident in assuming that nothing survives the end of the universe?
So as a universal citizenry, we are lucky to find ourselves in the not-too-early, but not-too-late portion with respect to the age of the universe, a chronological Goldilocks Zone.
And speaking of Goldilocks zones, so far as we are aware, organic life requires a certain temperature to simmer in. It is necessary for our planet to be not-too-far and not-too-close to our life-giving star so that we are blessed with liquid water. Without water we are not.
If there was no point, the first amoebic organisms that miraculously made the switch from inorganic to organic would have been the first and last if there was no natural push towards higher states of being. The early organisms benefitting from lightning striking the soup of carbon and ammonia would have been short lived, and our doorway towards organic assimilation and intelligence and civilization would be slammed shut.
Our specific species owes a debt of gratitude to disaster on the scale of star systems, the Chicxulub asteroid, which is the most likely candidate for wiping out the dinosaurs, exploding into the Yucatan Peninsula and destroying most of life that roamed at the time. With our primary adversaries suddenly mowed down by a cosmic death penalty, mammals were suddenly given the keys to daddy’s car, and we’ve had our foot to the pedal all the way to smartphones, space exploration, and a decimation of hunger so thorough that now our main problem is that we are too fat! Remember Chicxulub when you are trying to think of what to be thankful for during Thanksgiving. But then again, who’s to say that after 65 million years of development, one of the breeds of dinosaurs would not have evolved a level of consciousness and intelligence such that what we know of humanity and civilization would be dominated with scaly skinned politicians rather than us soft skinners?
Then there is the fact of the development of the species. As more layers were added to the original limbic system in the brain, our ability for reason and morality followed. With our reason came the augmented aptitude for survival, and with this aptitude we came to the conclusion that rather than simply surviving in the wild, it would be to our benefit to rework the wild into a domain more suitable to us, so we began to build civilization.
For you specifically, your conception was either planned or an accident, but regardless, you were born as a consequence of the laws of nature, which ordains that sex feels good and thus encourages our procreation. Walk around in a densely crowded area for a moment and you will quickly get a feel for the popularity of nature’s governing decree, for us to copulate. Nature needs us to keep going, and it has figured out a fail proof way of ensuring that this happens. Population encouragement: sex feels good. Overpopulation dissuasion: child bearing hurts.
So here we sit, all dressed in the height of modernity and trying to decide where to go next, or more acutely, maybe we would feel a bit better if we could just figure out what is the point to all this. Now that we have an understanding of where we’ve been, let’s see if we can let this guide us to where we are going, and whether where we are going has a point, or if we are pointless, rudderless, and alone in the cosmos.
But first we must choose which of the starting states in which we are willing to put our faith. From our perspective, there is only one possibility that allows for the concept of a “point” to be even a relevant discussion, and that is possibility number three, the universe with the non-meddling God.
While we can certainly agree that there is virtually no point to the universe with the explanation that we are godless and the universe is an accident, it is a much more tricky proposition (and one met with a greater degree of opposition) to promote the hypothesis that God does not meddle in life. More specifically, if we are to believe that there is a point to life, then we must hang our hats on the assertion that we have free will. As John Milton points out, we are created sufficient to have stood, though free to fall. If our destinies are preordained, then we have to accept that the conscious choices that we make in life are but an illusion. What would be the point of granting us freedom if we are riding on rails?
What would be the point of granting us freedom if we are riding on rails?
So now we have determined what kind of God we have, we have determined what kind of universe we have, and we have determined what kind of people we are. So now we must finally begin coming to the point. What is our creation made to accomplish?
For that we have only to examine the question, what is the point of creating anything? Think of your own existence. What motivates you on a fundamental level? Why do you do something rather than nothing? When we look at the question through this prism, the answer becomes clear. Our creation betters the existence of God, just as our human creations and efforts better our own existence. Our existence and march towards actualization is fulfilling to our creator, just as we are fulfilled when our creations come to fruition. As we look at the journey of our own scientists in their efforts to create artificial intelligence, and in essence, a new adjunct to life, we are looking at an aspiration to recreate ourselves in our own image. As tools, tech, and robots are but an adjunct to humans, humans are but an adjunct to God.
But then there is a larger question: If technology is an adjunct to humanity to aid in the fitness of the species, what does an immortal God need with adjuncts anyway? Surely God would not have died without us, right?
For us, if we had failed to increase our technological wherewithal as a species, our demise… our blinking out of the universe would have been the result. So to us, an advance in civilization was a necessary component to our survival, and it was human suffering that was – and still is – a perpetual driver of that need for advance.
But when we think of God, we think of an omnipotent being, impervious to mortality. We understand the concept of God to be a being that cannot possibly go out of existence. So if it is the case that God cannot go out of existence, and to a lesser degree is not subject to suffering as we know it, then is our adjunct relationship to our creator simply an accessorized vanity? We may never understand, but we must assume that in some way, our creation is necessary, just as the myriad creations of humanity were necessary for our own survival.
Individually, as one in approximately 7 billion members of the human race, the mark that most of us will leave is little more than the faintest of blips, a quadrillionth of a fraction on the scale of cosmology, the metaphorical equivalent of a single tear in all the oceans of the world. Collectively, and as a necessary component of our creator, the point becomes clearer. And the point of our existence is to do what is right and just, in keeping the advancement of humanity pointed in the direction of progress, so that not only do we survive, but flourish in creation.
Somehow, this benefits God, and we know this because we exist. We have already demonstrated that our existence belies this point.
A right action, multiplied by billions of people, benefits God in some way and is necessary. We are fulfilled by being a part of this grand design, and in doing so we contribute in some way to God’s triumph, who is concordantly fulfilled by our progress. What is God triumphing over? I never said that I could answer that, but we have at least put forward a paradigm explaining the point of our lives, and why there is something rather than nothing.