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A Universe Without Meaning

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We as a species tend to think of ourselves as pretty special. We have mental abilities that far surpass those of any other creature on earth, and we have social structures that we can maintain without constant infighting or always resorting to violence and territorial squabbles. We have a natural tendency toward togetherness and community where each of us can be included as a part, and we have created governments and infrastructures to make our lives easier and more comfortable. We have the ability to think beyond the now, to plan ahead and to fit these plans into our concepts of what we want our futures to be. We also have a very acute sense of self, a consciousness of our own identities and the ability to extrapolate that sense of self onto others via empathy.

This really does make us unique in our world. No other animal on earth has these abilities to the degree that humans do.

But with this uniqueness comes the misguided belief that we, unlike any other animal on earth, are more deserving of our place in this universe, and are so special in fact that once we have shuffled off this mortal coil, that there is more out there for us, that our lives somehow are a precursor for the "main event" and that we are here on earth as a test to see if we are fit to continue onwards. We also have the tendency to think that there must be more to a human life than just being born, living and dying. This tendency to place ourselves above all else in the universe as not only unique, but as special, brings with it the audacity to selfishly think that each one of us is so important that there must be more than just one life. If humans as individuals are so important, then surely just one lifetime is not enough for us. There must be more.

I think one of the most pointless questions people have ever asked is the question of "What is the meaning of life?" or "What is the meaning of the universe?" These questions presuppose a few things:

1. That our existences as individuals are part of a "divine plan", that what we do here on earth is just a cog in a bigger wheel which strives toward some predetermined destiny.

2. That we as individuals are so important that our actions have been mapped out for us.

3. The idea of fate, and that no matter what we as individuals do, the outcome is always going to be what was intended by an unseen timeline of events.

4. Without the idea of "meaning" life is not worth living.

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5. It implies that the universe is deterministic.

6. In order for there to be a "divine plan", there must be a "divine planner".

People do ask these questions and have for centuries, because without the feeling of "meaning" or "purpose" in an individual's life, one might believe there is nothing to live for. But I put to you this; there is no more meaning in the universe than there is in a rock or in the air, or a plant, or a dog. If someone were to ask you "What is the meaning of a dog?" or "What is the meaning of a rock?" you would look at them like they were delusional. Rocks and dogs and plants do not have meaning in and of themselves, so why should the universe?

Rocks, dogs and plants have implications, geomorphological, biological and botanical. They also have histories. But they do not have an innate meaning. We can ask questions about these things, like when did this rock originate, what is the evolutionary path taken by this dog, or where can this plant grow, but they are devoid of meaning if not put into a context of an actual question with a desired outcome.

It is the same for the universe. If we ask "What is the meaning of the universe?" what we are really asking is "Why am I here on earth now? I must be here for something, when will this greater purpose reveal itself to me?"

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It is a product of human selfishness to ask questions like this. When we place ourselves so high in this world as to make ourselves the reason for the earth's existence, and then suppose that we have a meaning for being here, we become blindly focused on ourselves. The consequences of this anthropocentric viewpoint can be seen all around the world in the way we treat this planet and its inhabitants.

Having established this, I know people will say something like "But how can you have a life without a purpose? Does this not mean that your life is without meaning?" Life has no meaning, but each of us as individuals can have a "sense of purpose" in our lives to be driven towards what makes us excited, or makes us happy, or makes us feel like we're making a difference in the world. A "sense of purpose" is very different from the idea of a "divine meaning" because each of us creates our own "sense of purpose". The reward for the "purpose" is often the action doing our role in a given situation.

Some people say that without God life would not be worth living, as if somehow being given a role to fulfill on earth makes it all the more rewarding. Historically people have used the statement "God's divine plan" or "God's will" as an excuse to do any number of things. To say "It is God's will that I do this (action)" is in actuality a way of stating "I want to do this because I feel it is right and doing this gives me a sense of purpose." World leaders such as George W Bush have used such rhetoric to justify positions that he himself held such as:

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I am a blogger who deals primarily with ideas of atheism and the problems that religion, politics and culture cause worldwide. I am also an advocate for science. I live in Melbourne Australia and am currently 38 years old. That's really all you need (more...)
 

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