Is there a reason for our existence?
I wish to make it clear at the outset that this page is not attacking religion, but due to its very nature the question of religion does arise, it can not be avoided. I make my own beliefs quite clear in my summing up as to whether or not we are here for a reason. The two, religion and reason, are related. My beliefs may well conflict with your own religious beliefs. Please do not take offense, we all have the right to believe in whatever we choose, but should be tolerant of those that choose a different view. The questions that I raise in respect of God are fundamental to our understanding of a reason for being.
Why do we exist?
Many people believe that there is a reason for our existence and usually, though not always, it is based in religion. See Are all religions false? This may be a very profound belief that the only reason that we are here is because we are somehow required to be in order that we may serve some purpose in a grand plan of some description or other. This belief may take the form that this existence of ours is merely a brief step, or even a 'test' before we move on to greater things in another plane, another life, or indeed in Heaven. It is a very hard belief to ignore, even for those who would not normally describe themselves as being of a religious nature, but which can I think be explained by our own egotistical nature.
We all have of course self awareness, a feeling of 'self', of being aware of ourselves and our surroundings, and the only clear view that we can have of the world is, naturally, our own. We see the world as a sequence of events that happen to us and around us. We of course, from our own perspective, are very much central to all these events. It is not therefore surprising that we each consider our own existence to be important, regardless as to the actual reality of the situation. Logic would dictate that if one of us was to cease to exist the world would carry on pretty much as it always has, apart from being missed by friends and family of course. But logic can be ignored when it suits us and the vast majority of us consider ourselves to be important to ' the great scheme of things' to some degree or other. Our egos are not keen to accept that in reality we may not be of any consequence to the vast universe in which we exist, or indeed to humanity as a whole. Our importance to family and friends is, naturally, accepted.
Following on from the belief of our own self importance it is, I suggest, only a natural step to assume that we are here for a reason, to serve some purpose, even though we may not know what it may be. I am not talking here of family commitment or of our duty to others, but a grander purpose in the 'great scheme of things'. But is it true? Is there really a need for us to be here? Do we have a purpose within this vast universe?
If we apply logic to the question, then if we are here for a reason, we have to conclude that our existence must be necessary, otherwise we wouldn't be here. That being the case our existence alone should satisfy the 'need' to be here because we do not ourselves know what that reason is or what it is that we are required to do. It would follow that if our existence comes to an end, then we have 'done our duty', whatever it was. In other words, whatever we do, or don't do, however long or brief our lives, it was all part of the 'plan'. It seems to me then that no matter what we do, how we live our lives, it was meant to be, that was the 'plan', providing of course that you believe in a 'plan' in the first place.
On the other hand if we believe that we are here by chance alone, then again it doesn't matter to the 'plan' how we live our lives, because we don't believe that there is a 'plan' and possibly do not believe in God either for the same reasons. It will of course matter to others how we conduct ourselves. Great 'plan' or not it would appear that we are free to act as we see fit. This is assuming of course that we do in fact have free will in our choice of actions, and there is no proof that we do.
There is however another way to look at the idea of a plan, a greater goal for the human race, that would give us a purpose, a reason for being, other than as described above which is based on each individual having their own reason for existence. We could take the view that the plan, or reason, applies to the human race as a whole, and that the actions, or even the existence, of individuals is unimportant to the overall 'direction' of the plan.
By way of example let's consider the route taken by billions of electrons following a path of least resistance. They reach a 'gate' that allows 30% to go left and 70% to go right. The path splits at the 'gate' and 30% go left and 70% go right as the 'gate ' intended. The 'gate' works on probability and does not, indeed can not, choose which individual electrons go left and right, it has no bearing on the result anyway, it's only the percentage that go left or right that matter. When observing the electrons approaching the 'gate' it is impossible to predict which of the electrons will go left or right. The laws of Quantum Mechanics work on probabilities, but given a high enough number of electrons the outcome of such a 'gate' can be predicted with remarkable accuracy. So the selected percentage of electrons go where they were designed to go and our computer works.
We can imagine ourselves following a 'route', performing a function just like the electrons flowing through a circuit board. The electrons of course are unaware that they are part of a highly complex system and are performing remarkable feats of number crunching so that we can read a web page, they are merely existing and flowing along a circuit from which they have no escape, or even a notion of escape. The existence of individual electrons is unimportant, the route they 'choose' to take is unimportant, and in fact each individual electron does indeed 'choose' its own route. It is only the overall outcome of the statistical probabilities that is important, that is what makes the computer work, and the electrons of course have no notion of a circuit board, let alone a computer. Could we be like those electrons? Could it be that individually we are of no significance, that our individual actions count for nothing, that it matters not if we live or die, but collectively, as the human race, we do have a reason for existence, a collective goal for mankind that is beyond our comprehension?
Another way of looking at the problem is to take a more holistic view of the universe and everything that it contains. Everything is made of the same original elementary forces that coalesced from the big bang singularity, whether it be a photon, a star, a lump of rock or a human being. It is only the combination, the mix of things, that makes things different from one another. When we peer millions of light years into the depths of space, we still see the same things, further back in time of course, as we find in our own galaxy and here on Earth. We, the human race, are as much a part of the universe as a spiral galaxy or black hole, and made of the same stuff. Is it then fanciful to suggest that we, as sentient beings examining the universe, represent the universe examining itself? because in a manner of speaking it is. We are not 'different' to the universe, we are very much an integral part of the universe as a whole, we may be only a very small part, but we are a part of it, we do not exist in isolation. So next time you look up at a dark sky and see those distant twinkling stars just remember that it was in those fiery furnaces that the first steps were taking in building up the atoms that eventually led to you. We are made of star dust, we are part of the universe. Perhaps we should be asking instead Why does the universe exist?
Throughout history there have been great people that have made sacrifices for the benefit of others, they had a cause and made it the reason for their existence, even sacrificing their lives for the sake of their cause. Perhaps they died content knowing that they had made a significant contribution to the advancement of mankind. Some would have believed that this was the only reason they were born, to do this great deed. They were sure they knew what was required of them by whichever God they happened to worship. They may be right, but what would have actually been achieved? A better life for those remaining, yes, for which all are grateful, but in 'the great scheme of things' merely a more comfortable existence for those that were going to exist anyway, (according to the 'plan') not a real change in the 'plan' itself, life goes on regardless, but towards what we do not know. Even the belief that we are 'heading somewhere' is entirely without substance, unless you believe in a 'plan' for reasons of faith.
What do I think?
I do not believe there is any reason for our existence, and of this I feel certain. Why? For the following reasons:
1) Life has evolved on this planet because the conditions just happen to be suitable. It did not require a 'design plan'. Pure chance. We just happened to have evolved into what we are today by chance, natural selection, mutation, survival of the fittest etc. etc. and just plain luck that we were not destroyed by some calamity along the way. I do not consider that events were designed in such a way that our development was a necessary outcome, I think it just happened and equally may not have. As our existence appears to me to be the result of a chance sequence of events the idea that we are are here for a reason would be, as Spock would put it, illogical.
The initial conditions in the big bang all those billions of years ago started a chain of events that resulted in our existence today, but that is not a plan, that is just a natural consequence of those initial conditions. Even if you believe that God created and designed the big bang it is not necessary to believe that He is controlling our lives. Why should He? He doesn't need to. See 2) below. If you believe that God created the universe for our benefit, that we are the reason for the creation of the universe, do we, on planet Earth, really require the existence of 100 billion galaxies just for our own survival? We have many times more to the nth degree then we could possibly need in our own galaxy alone, the Milky Way, and the chance of us reaching even the nearest stars in that seems incredibly remote. Why then such a staggeringly ridiculous excess? God could have just made our Milky Way Galaxy.
2) We could all be destroyed at any time by an asteroid or comet, just like the dinosaurs were believed to have been 65 million years ago, see Our Nemesis? only next time it may be the entire planet that is destroyed. See Can we survive the next major impact? What would have been the point of our existence then? You could I suppose argue that by then we will have served our purpose, whatever it may have been, and somehow 'moved on' as it were. What purpose? This would indicate that we are being 'overseen' by some higher authority. God perhaps, Who will decide when the time is right and wipe us out with, say, a comet.
If there is a God that is so all powerful and is in some way controlling and tinkering with our lives, then why make us go through all the terrible things that happen on this planet every single day? With so much power why not just make us as He intends us to eventually become? Why make us imperfect or incomplete in some way, put us on the planet to live and die and so 'improve' ourselves, when He could just make us perfect in the first place? Whatever it is that we are here to learn or experience as a 'necessary ' process before progressing to something else as part of the 'plan', God could simply just 'give' to us in the 'next stage' and bypass this stage altogether. Save a lot of time and trouble.
3) To believe in a 'plan' that would give us a reason for our existence, does, I believe, require us to believe in the existence of God, for only God could be the creator of such a 'plan'. If you do not believe in God then you presumably do not believe in a plan. I say 'presumably' because perhaps there is a way at looking at the development of mankind towards some final goal that does not require that God play any part in it. But I consider that would be taking an altruistic view of life, believing that we should act for the benefit of mankind, striving to make things better, which is a wonderful view of life to take, a great goal to aim for, but is that a reason for our existence? It is only improving our existence, not a reason for it.
To sum up. A 'plan' that would give us a reason for being here? No, I do not think so. I do not see any logical point to having a 'plan'. A 'plan' of this magnitude could only be created by God, and He does not need a plan, He can make it happen, anyway, anytime He desires. I do not however rule out the possibility of God, only that He is not responsible for the way we run our lives, that's up to us and chance. He may have created the universe but He is surely not controlling our individual lives. I would hate to think that He was, because if so, could He not make it so that nobody gets sick or starves to death? I'm sure He could of course, He can do anything, so the fact that these things happen suggest to me that if God exists He does not play any part in our day to day lives. I would also suggest that if He does exist He plays no part in the workings of the universe at all. So without some form of 'plan' - and I am sure for all the above reasons that there isn't one - then we are not here for any reason at all. We just exist.
As I said in Where did the universe come from? I do not believe we need to introduce the concept of God into the equation to explain how the universe may have come into existence, and I furthermore do not believe we are here for any purpose of God's. If you however believe the opposite to be true, then all well and good, but why do you think God needs a plan ?
I sincerely hope I have not offended anyone, as I said at the start, it is not my intention to. I am only raising questions. If you think that there are areas that we are somehow not fit to ask questions about, then why do we posses the intelligence to do so? It could have been 'blocked off'. We have a brain and I believe we should use it to question everything, even the reason for having an intelligent brain, we must have it for a reason, don't you think?
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