Please excuse me if this article is somewhat discomfiting. However, I think the question I am asking is important.
Human beings seem to assume that there is a purpose to their existence. For many centuries, they have assumed that God (or some higher being) caused their existence. Therefore, since this higher being must have had a purpose in creating mankind, human beings have a purpose. But how do we know this to be true?
For example, suppose that there is no higher being? Suppose that nature operates on its own? We believe that there was a “Big Bang” which caused the start of the universe, and as part of that our solar system was created. Humankind emerged from the mess of atoms, electrons and protons. Anyway, we are here, running hither and yon over the planet Earth. Despite our thinking, we are slowly destroying the planet, creating global warming, reducing the amount of fresh water, and doing other things that will inevitably result in our own destruction. If we don’t do something about our own irrational behavior, humankind will disappear in a few hundred years and Earth will freed from our involvement.
Think of it: While our ancestors have been around for about six million years, the modern form of humans only evolved about 200,000 years ago. Civilization as we know it is only about 6,000 years old, and industrialization started in the earnest only in the 1800s. We really don’t think about a past that’s older than 2,000 years. And the planet? Earth was formed from debris orbiting around our sun about 4 ½ billion years ago. Try comparing that to the existence of the United States, which was born 245 years ago. 245 years is a mere blink of the eye. If there never had been a United States, would that matter?
Suppose that humankind had never been created? There would still be a planet Earth, populated by plants and animals. Earth would keep trudging along towards . . . what? If there were never a human race, what would be the purpose of the planet Earth – or the solar system. Or, for that matter, the universe?
Of course, it’s certainly possible that there could be other thinking creatures out in the universe, and maybe the purpose of the creation of the universe is based on their existence. On the other hand, there might not be other thinking creatures yet, and the universe may have to wait a few more billion years before they come onto the scene.
If you think about it long enough, mankind shrinks down to almost a pointless nothing. And all the things that we are presently worrying about mean very, very little. What does it matter, after all, if China becomes the leading nation on Earth? What does it matter if wild horses become extinct? What does it matter if Trump becomes President again? These are almost pointless issues. After all, there could be a giant asteroid heading for the Earth right this minute and within 100 years, all life on this planet could disappear.
Once you let such thoughts sink in, you realize that your everyday concerns are of very little importance. Neither you nor I nor any one else should be thinking about anything except ways in which mankind might continue to survive. Because, after all, if mankind doesn’t survive – if that is our future – then what is the point of all the things that have happened before. Does the Roman Empire matter? Does China matter? Does the United States matter? Not if there is no future for mankind.
We have about 8 billion people on Earth with an average age of 32. Most of those people are just scrambling to stay alive. But there are a very small number among them – you could one of those – who are thinking beyond their own, humdrum existence. And that’s what we need: thinkers. People who can find a way to explain our own existence, and who can direct the 8 billion towards something meaningful.
Thinking large, perhaps the meaning to our existence is to explore the universe and — what? Suppose that we can send humans off into the distant galaxies. What will that do? We may find that there are other thinking creatures, and what will that do? Will we become connected with them? And, if we do, then what? Don’t forget that we may never find another group of thinkers out there. There may be nothing. We may be the only ones in the entire universe What then?
And let’s consider the future of the universe. Will the universe remain alive and healthy forever? In a Universe that is expanding at an accelerating rate, the galaxies we now see will recede out of sight, one by one. Tens of billions of years from now, the Milky Way will be the only galaxy we’ll be able to see; our Sun will have shrunk to a white dwarf star that will provide little light and heat to the Earth. On the other hand, the universe may stop expanding and may collapse into a complete mess, very similar to what existed might after the Big Bang. What will either of these do to mankind?
Consider this: maybe there are other timelines, and other universes that we cannot even see. Will we ever get to see them? And, if we do, what will happen then?
If you start to ponder these questions, our present existence appears to have little meaning, except that we are here. That is the only important thing about today: that it may eventually take us to something more meaningful. You realize that, as thinking creatures, we should end our internal and eternal conflicting and try to move towards something that will have true and – hopefully – lasting meaning.
It would be indeed sad if humanity disappeared 22 billion years from now. Wouldn’t it?