NOTE: This post was revised and corrected from its original form on 2009.09.17.

PART I
Lately I have been watching a lot of documentaries on space, the planets, black holes, and the like. I am overwhelmed by the vastness of space—the extreme distances between the planets and stars—as well as the immense amount of energy being spent or transformed by the Universe. Of course, there is also the inconceivable amount of time that has transpired within the Universe, and the infinite future that lies before it. It seems impossible to wrap one’s mind around it.

While I have no theistic tendencies, I can’t help but wonder what it is all for. Theists of course pretend to have the answers. They simply make up whatever nonsense they want to make up and pretend that their lives have a purpose: to serve the whims of a creator who has a cosmic plan.

Outside of embracing mumbo jumbo, what are to think of, or about, the Universe we see? What is the purpose of it all? Why does it go to so much trouble doing what it does?

Consider the fact that a million trillion miles away there are galaxies being born, stars dying and exploding into super novae, planets coalescing, and a whole host of other natural phenomena—but there is no one there to see it, study it, acknowledge it, record it, or even be concerned about it.

So why does it bother? Can inanimate matter have a purpose or goal? And does any of it matter if there is no conscious life around to witness it, or take part in it?


PART II
Human life will go extinct. It is inevitable. Everything is transitory; everything will fade. If we don’t destroy ourselves, then something else will. The number of threats to our planet are numerous, and all are potential possibilities—with some being more inevitable than others. For example, our sun will turn into a red giant, and then collapse into a white dwarf one day, as all yellow giants do. Alternately, our molten iron core will cool one day, and when it does the magnetic field that protects the earth from the solar winds will disappear, too. Either situation means the end of all life on earth.

The only known witnesses to the passage of time and the unfolding of the Universe, and we will be gone—no one to care that we were here, and no one to acknowledge our existence; all our accomplishments, and everything that defines us—simply gone.

So what’s it all for?

I know that sounds like a theistic question, but it isn’t really. It is a human question.

Earth is the only place in the Universe that we know of in which chemical and organic life has combined in such as way to create consciousness. Surely, the extraordinary importance (and improbability) of that fact is lost on no one here.

From a cosmic point of view, it seems like such a shame to lose it.


PART III
Keeping in mind what I have said so far, I want to pose these questions:

Being that we are the only life forms in this chaotic cosmic drama, do we have a purpose, and do we have a destiny as a species? Whether it is a destiny imposed upon us by the demands of DNA, or a destiny freely chosen and defined by us, do we have one?

In other words: Do we have a cosmic obligation to reach some goal? And if we don’t already, should we create one?

I know I’ve asked a lot of questions here. Please choose the ones you think you’d like to respond to and share your opinions below.

Tags: destiny, humanity, humans, life, life on earth, people, the universe

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^_^
Humanities only collective destiny should be to leave Earth some day and eventually, if such a chance exists, the universe. All in the name of survival. 'cause that's what we're here to do - survive.

Hopefully humanity will unite in time for us to escape destruction at our own hands. I'm an optimist by nature so I think that we will eventually do that and it's up to all of us to lend a hand in this endeavor.
Yes, survival would seem paramount. However, on a recent show I watched, even if we left earth today, traveling as quickly as we possibly could with known technology, it would take something like 50 thousand years to reach the next galaxy. If we colonized beyond earth, it would have to be another plant or moon within our solar system, if one that has an oxygen based atmosphere exists.
Well, we'll just have to come up with some better technology then, won't we? We've got a couple billion years to figure it out before we get fried by the sun (presuming we can stave off any cataclysmic temperature changes or large meteor strikes in the meantime).
Do we have a cosmic obligation to reach some goal? And if we don’t already, should we create one?

Any goals we "create" are the product of our genetics and environment- who we are and what we've been exposed to. It's all of the Universe. There is nothing disallowed by the Universe that we can accomplish and nothing commanded by it that we can defy. For the moment, we're still here and pressing forward and outward. In our myopic perception of time, we could be inclined to see our world as nearing its end. I think it more likely that we're just learning to walk and talk and play nice and that our descendants will remark on our immaturity and pettiness. I wish I could be around to see how it all turns out.

Great discussion, Dallas.
My sentiment exactly.
Great response, Nate.

...the product of our genetics and environment- who we are and what we've been exposed to...There is nothing disallowed by the Universe that we can accomplish and nothing commanded by it that we can defy.

It certainly seems that way. I like your idea that there is nothing commanded that we can't defy. In many ways I think that is true. And yet, in other ways we do seem to be slaves to the directive of our DNA. This raises the questions as to how much free will we actually possess.

I wish I could be around to see how it all turns out.

That's another discussion thread I have planned.
And yet, in other ways we do seem to be slaves to the directive of our DNA. This raises the questions as to how much free will we actually possess.

On the contrary I think it's our physiological limits that liberate us. Only an omniscient being would be deprived of free will. I was a strong determinist/reductionnist until the end of my teen years, and my negative views on free will often led me to existential despair and a feeling of hopelessness. Until I realized it's the vastness of our ignorance, and our inability to ever fill that void, which are the source of our free will. I won't elaborate on this because of my limited English, but think about it for yourself.
I agree with Adriana. Your English is fine, and you've touched on some points here that might be better served in a new discussion thread. I don't know what you mean by "determinist/reductionnist," well, not fully anyhow.
Et merdre! I know everytime I step in a philosophical discussion (or any discussion that goes deep enough for that matter), I always hit a wall at some point for being unable to shape and present my thoughts with a decent level of clarity, because of the language barrier. Usually I have to resort to the easiest route - analogies. Unfortunately analogies have their limits. Or links to other sources. Or quotes. Oh well, I'll give it a try. In the meantime, assume I'm a Zen master and try to make sense of what I said. ;-)
I don't know what you mean by "determinist/reductionnist,"

Sorry, I forgot to answer that part. I meant the Laplacian view that everything can be reduced down to the law of physics, and that everything is predetermined through the laws of causation.

We may regard the present state of the universe as the effect of its past and the cause of its future. An intellect which at a certain moment would know all forces that set nature in motion, and all positions of all items of which nature is composed, if this intellect were also vast enough to submit these data to analysis, it would embrace in a single formula the movements of the greatest bodies of the universe and those of the tiniest atom; for such an intellect nothing would be uncertain and the future just like the past would be present before its eyes. - Pierre-Simon Laplace
I still agree with Laplace. But too bad we may never have the type of all-encompassing intellect he's describing, neither will we have all the data to input into such a brain...

Personally, I think it's a good thing. Plus, it's logically impossible, from a thermodynamics point of view. If such a 'brain' existed, it would require as much information (in the thermodynamical sense) as there is within the universe, plus information about itself. So it can't exist within our universe. And if it exists outside our universe, there must be a transfer of information at the time the 'snapshot' is taken. I.e., the universe isn't a closed system, its entropy fluctuates, and that information must also be transmitted, which leads to infinite regress. Infinite knowledge at any given time is impossible, or the second law of thermodynamics is bogus.

Wonderful. Without even realizing it, I just proved an omniscient god can't logically exist, even outside the universe. Either this is old news I wasn't aware of, or there must be a flaw in my reasoning.
Interesting. I believe that free will is an illusion, but a very good one and "It's the vastness of our ignorance, and our inability to ever fill that void, which are the source of free will" kind of fits that perfectly to me. Pretty sure we agree here. :D

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