Why am I here? Does the universe have a purpose and does the purpose include us? “I’m not sure,” says Neil DeGrasse Tyson. “But anyone who expresses a more definitive response to the question is claiming access to knowledge not based in empirical foundations. This remarkably persistent way of thinking, common to most religions and some branches of philosophy, has failed badly in past efforts to understand and thereby predict the operations of the universe and our place within in.” So, we simply don’t know.
“We live in an uncaring universe. Any idea that it was created for our felicity must be nonsense, for each wonder to which we may point is countered by a monstrosity. To believe in the anthropic principle, that the world was created to serve us, in the face of so much suffering, is absurd, indeed it is narcissistic, even infantile.” – Peter Sellick
So how about the purpose of the human race. Does a fish or a giraffe have a purpose, other than to propagate their species? Do humans have a special place among animals and therefore have a purpose?
Well I asked my friend David King about this.
“That’s easy. In my humble opinion, the human race (species) has no purpose, nor does any other species. We alone fret about “purpose” just as we fret about life after death because our development of a complex system of symbols (language) gave us the ability to contemplate things and events beyond the immediate here and now. Another question: Why is there a universe? I haven’t a clue. Nor do I have a clue about the possibility that there is some creative force or being that’s responsible for the whole thing. Of this I am pretty sure: We are the only species that contemplates these questions. Does that make us special? I doubt it. Without language, we’d just be another great ape.”
There is more than to this of course. How about meaning? All of us are searching for meaning. Perhaps we are providing meaning to the universe rather than the universe providing meaning to us. When we see a beautiful galaxy, we are giving it meaning. Without humans it would not be beautiful. Plato might disagree in that he thought that beauty existed “apriori”; that it could be deduced without observation. I tend to believe that prior to humans, there was no beauty. We provide the meaning to the Universe.
And of course, it is a great mystery and as Joseph Campbell says the “mystery of being is beyond all categories of thought.”
In looking at these big questions about my place in the universe, my place in time, and the purpose of human race, I realize that, while providing context, it does little else. While the universe may be impersonal, we are not. As Victor Frankl says. “it did not really matter what we expected from life, but rather what life expected from us.” We each need to provide meaning and purpose to our own lives based on our personal circumstances. It is not necessary for meaning or purpose to come from outside of us.
So, do you provide purpose for your life, or is purpose beyond you?
Do you provide meaning for your life, or does meaning come from beyond you?
The picture below is a photograph of earth and moon from the rings of Saturn. Saturn is 890 million miles from earth. Multiply that by 100,000 and you still wouldn’t even get out of the Milky Way galaxy.
2 thoughts on “DOES THE HUMAN RACE HAVE A PURPOSE?”
It clearly looks to me as though you jumped into this water with both feet.
Your comments begin with various opinions and statements from people like Neil DeGrasse Tyson, Peter Sellick, David King, who all think that humanity has no purpose. I must admit that I suspected this for a part of my life, until, that is, I began to learn something about spiritual things from people I respected.
My own childhood was much like yours. I grew up in a middle-class family. Although
I had different experience that forged my perspective. I was in military school at the age of six, then boarding school until high school, then prep school where I boarded, all Catholic. All that had the effect of making me introspective. That’s my little story.
But, you finally got to something said by Joseph Campbell, who in my opinion produced the best program TV has to offer with his Assent of Man back in the 70’s.
Joseph Campbell said, “mystery of being is beyond all categories of thought.” Now that’s something. This is my understanding today. I would only add that categories of thought mean there is no thought, no language, no concept, indeed, nothing of the mind that can point in any meaningful way to describe the nature of Reality.
My own message to people who are curious about the purpose of humanity is that answers are to be found in a spiritual search. When one considers your own sense of proportion related to your understanding of the scope of the universe, from the smallest known particle to the enormity of the cosmos, it begins to look like we are all part of something just beyond knowing. That’s why I accept Campbell’s statement that “the mystery of being is beyond all categories of thought.”
Bruce you wrote “We are the only species that contemplates these questions. Does that make us special? I doubt it.”
My response is “Yes, that does make us special!” We are the only species that can look back upon itself. We are the only species that can see “beauty”. The list goes on. And in my life,
making meaning is a very special gift that we humans have and can give to others. To say
nothing of the ability to choose to “transcend” oneself and experience a Presence.
(This was a good conversation Starter!)