A wonderful element of religion is that it provides purpose and meaning to our existence as human beings on this earth, and offers eternal individual relevance. It is perhaps not surprising, therefore, that people may develop a black-and-white mentality that makes it difficult to continue to appreciate the miracle of life once it is explained by the “rules” of science. Is accepting the vastness and greatness of science, mathematics, and history equal to accepting the sadness or meaninglessness of human existence? Science, mathematics, data and rationality always explain how, not why.
However, the understanding of our existence is not specific to a scientist, specific to a writer, specific to a banker, specific to a salesman. This is a universal man feeling and philosophical existential anxiety about human relevance and feelings are not always rational or can be settled by logic. I believe you can understand science – along with the understanding of human beings as miniature in the colossal vast universe – and still finds meaning and beauty in the world. Poet John Keats has expressed what many people fear about science: that explaining the world scientifically makes it less amazing. I disagree and hope that a different perspective can offer comfort, convenience, wonder and meaning in this insurmountable universe – not to belittle or reject faith in religion, but also to offer acceptance, meaning, and beauty in science.
I am probably lucky to accept the nonsense of being human in a universe that will continue to evolve, change, and turn humanity into an omission. I don’t feel that I need to be connected to the wider universe or have a broader purpose. I may be made up of meaningless atoms that have happened in life due to ridiculous chances, but I don’t feel upset about that. I think that makes sense in itself. For a reference to Ricky Gervais in the comedy After Life, you may find that life is precious and meaningful because you can’t watch it over and over again, like a movie. That is why you live every moment with passion, love, excitement and find magic in what you experience and know. Gervais said questioning the meaning of our existence “always comes back to us.” It could potentially be argued that there is inherent selfishness in people who want to matter in a universe we will never control. As evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins puts it, “the universe owes us nothing.” My mother always advises me that worrying or getting upset about things beyond your control is useless. The universe and science are so drastically out of our control that I focus on my immediate life and existence, because that’s all we have.
“Science (usually) won’t make you laugh”
Facts, empirical data, science and mathematics are phenomenal. We may marvel at them, honor them, respect them, and rejoice in studying them, but science (usually) will not make you laugh, provide you with plaster when you cut yourself, or hug you when you cut yourself. you are emotionally vulnerable. All we have is each other. Other human beings. Inevitably we can and will never be connected to anything but each other, so other human beings must mean everything to you. If we are meaningless atoms, all we have are other meaningless atoms that can fulfill us. Since I personally do not believe in the afterlife, what deeply saddens me are the people who experience only suffering. That is why I find meaning and purpose in my ambitions to dedicate my career to helping others and to promoting justice, kindness and equality. But one can also find meaning in one’s friends, family, relationships, love, nature, memories and learning. You can find meaning in enjoying the study of science without necessarily having to relate to it. I can’t control the universe or science, but the things I can control are where I find meaning. Gratitude for life should not be directed to God or rejected by science. We can love and marvel at what we have and find satisfaction and satisfaction in this simplicity and we need nothing more.
“Rationality explains how, not why”
I interpret science as magical and meaningful, without asking why. If everything is accidental, but contains such subtleties, doesn’t it make it an even more magical miracle? Our improved understanding of genetics is revolutionizing the way we look at ourselves and other species; work in physics has found particles even smaller than atoms. Many factors had to come together to sustain life on this planet and then on so that each individual could have life. When you really think about it, it’s amazingly amazing. Nonsense makes sense because we are so happy to experience the smallest breakthrough in the universe due to chance, accident and endless factors. Can’t we just appreciate the amazing nature of this, be so grateful that we can find this information and have a life at all?
Someone special to me recently highlighted a saying used by After Life: “A society becomes great when the elderly plant trees in the shade of which they will never sit.” We find meaning in the things we do for others, even if there is no wider universal meaning for ourselves. We cannot change the fact that we, as individuals, are essentially meaningless atoms, but that is all we have, and the other meaningless atoms that surround us. All we have is our immediate existence: the love we feel, the memories we have, the knowledge we acquire. Why does it matter if we are irrelevant to the universe? We must always find relevance and meaning in the very things that affect our direct existence. Find gratitude and meaning in the laughter you share, the people you meet, the nature you are and wonder and be curious about the science and mathematics that explain it. I am grateful for the life I have beyond everything and I want nothing more than the love of my life, my wonderful friends, my amazing family and career ambitions. That makes enough sense to me. Science and mathematics will never reduce this – can only add. This is my existence and, I believe, the only thing I will ever have. I want to make the most of it and make my own sense, instead of focusing on the futility of the universe. This is something I can’t change and so beyond my knowledge, why should I focus on it at all?
Feelings and emotion are an integral part of being human … and maybe that’s something to think about. This is what makes us human. That makes sense to us. Our feeling. Our emotions. In this way, the sense of meaninglessness makes sense in itself, because it strikes exactly what makes us human, that science cannot accurately explain consciousness and emotions (past biological human chemistry and primary impulses). Maybe that’s what it is. Our emotions, memories, love, and therefore the very question of meaning (and the despondency that can come with it), are in themselves what gives meaning to life.
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