Most people want there to be a deeper meaning to life; a higher purpose for everyhing we experience. I desperately want there to be something more! But this is wishful thinking according to Neil deGrasse Tyson’s provocative video Does the Universe Have a Purpose? He points out that we haven’t been around for 99.9999% of cosmic history and that devastation and death have destroyed 99.9% of all species that have lived on earth.
So if the purpose of the universe was to create humans, then the cosmos was embarrassingly inefficient about it. … Intent is hard, if not impossible, to assert. So while I cannot claim to know for sure whether or not the universe has a purpose, the case against it is strong, and visible to anyone who sees the universe as it is rather than as they wish it to be.
I’ve had the same nihilistic feeling at times. It can be kindled by a NOVA documentary, the evening news or personal tragedy. The cosmos seems indifferent at best and malicious at worst. But I can also think of three counterpoints to Tyson’s conclusion.
1) Inefficiency is in the eye of the beholder. The size and age of the universe are relative to a Creator “outside” space-time (recall the galaxy on Orion’s Belt in Men in Black).
2) The cosmos has been sufficiently efficient to allow for our existence. The series of amazingly precise calibrations necessary for human life have been grouped under the rubric of The Anthropic Principle.* Turns out the odds of us being here by accident are as astronomical as for us being here by design.
3) Atheists are just as likely to see the universe “as they wish it to be” as are theists. Faith plays a part in both worldviews. A priori assumptions have a large influence on how we perceive and parse reality.
Seeking meaning in life can be as illusory as searching for faces in the clouds. Or, as in my case, it can be a quest for the Designer of the “wonder”ful processes that create those clouds, the eyes that behold them, and the consciousness that ponders their existence—and my own.
* There are different versions of the Anthropic Principle, e.g. SAP, WAP, and different conclusions drawn from the data. See, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anthropic_principle