Does the Universe Have a Purpose?

An excerpt from the Passionate Earth: The Evolution of Our Relationship with the Natural World by John Del Signore. I will be posting new articles to this site on a regular basis.

The origin of the universe is uncertain but we know that at one time, it existed as very condensed, hot energy that resulted in the Big Bang. The chemical reactions that occurred after the initial explosion or expansion, as some describe it, started the process of the elements combining to form the basic structural matter of the universe. This process took billions of years and is still continuing to evolve and will probably continue until the universe comes to some kind of conclusion that could even result in another Big Bang and a repeat performance of the formation of the cosmos. This theory proposes that gravity will eventually overcome the expansive forces and will result in contraction until the universe collapses, becomes extremely hot due to compression, explodes again and starts the whole process anew. The other possibilities are that the universe will continue to expand until it literally tears apart or may simply continue to expand indefinitely. No one ultimately knows what outcome may prevail and continued research may provide more hypothesis as well.

What is so amazing about the formation of the cosmos is its precise configuration of the right elements and in the right proportions to initiate the development of life forms and the process of evolution. Minor variations in the creation of elemental compounds and in different proportions would not have allowed for the establishment of life at all.

This raises the question of whether the universe was created by an external force such as a deity, or does the universe have its own intelligence and consciousness as part of its intrinsic nature or is its remarkable existence simply coincidental?

This question has had considerable attention throughout history and is still largely unanswered for many or tied to religious beliefs for others. Science has made its own attempt to resolve this matter in what is known as the Anthropic Principle. The Anthropic Principle claims that the universe has to contain humans such that they can observe it and know it exists.

There is also a Weak Anthropic Principle that is purely scientific and negates the viability of intelligent design or of a super-intelligent creator or a supreme being. It states; the existence of humans determines the type of universe we can see. These factors are not coincidental but must be the way they are. Other types of universes could not be known because humans would not be in existence to see them.

This view is also thought by some to include the existence of other universes that may have existed before ours, some that exist presently and others that may exist in the future but may be unknowable. The question then arises: does a universe that is unknowable exist or not? This proposition has been a matter of controversy in philosophy and is still so today. 

To resolve this problem and other coincidences in the Weak Anthropic Principle, cosmologists such as Fred Hoyle and John Wheeler have created a third version of the latter two principles called the Strong Anthropic Principle. They reason that there can be no reality of anything without an observer so a universe would have to be stable, exist long enough for life to form and that life would have to evolve intelligent entities with the ability of consciousness and observation of the universes’ existence.

I have already mentioned in the first chapter that there is a plethora of evidence that the universe created itself and is a conscious entity. This might help to explain why the conditions of the universe have evolved the way they have and why this universe supports the emergence of living organisms. What has evolved on other celestial bodies is anybody’s guess.

I think it is self-evident that the universe is extremely complex and well beyond our meager comprehension; therefore, we should respect its extraordinary essence and treat it with respect and appreciation in that it has allowed us to emerge, evolve and participate in its ongoing maturation.

George Wald also brings to light the fact that the universe has evolved in such a manner that it is eminently conducive to creating life. He points out the fact that the elementary particles are such that they enable matter to exist and the electric charges are just such that they balance each other out. Out of the 92 elements that exist, only four are responsible for life. These are hydrogen, carbon, nitrogen and oxygen, the basic organic molecules of living systems. The nuclei of these same elements interact to generate the light of its star. The organisms on our planet have thus come to rely on starlight to exist.

Water is the strangest molecule as it is the only one that expands and floats when it is cooled to freezing. All other molecules contract when they cool. If water did likewise, it would become increasingly dense as it cooled and would sink to the bottom and begin to freeze from the bottom up and eventually turn all the water to ice. This property would not support the development of life on earth. Large masses of ice melt rather slowly but the thin layers of ice that develop on the land and seas in winter months melt quickly in the warmth of spring sunlight and organisms can survive this amount of frozen water.

What Wald is trying to illuminate is the extraordinary complexity of cosmic ingredients that have developed, and in the exact proportions, that have made life possible. It is estimated that (10 to the 18th power) other heavenly bodies could support life throughout our universe.

Following this information is the cosmic principle. The universe is directed by two opposing forces, the force of expansion produced by the Big Bang and the force of contraction produced by gravity. If expansion had overcome gravity, the universe would have stretched until it literally tore itself apart. If gravity had prevailed, the universe would have slowed its expansion until it stopped expanding and would have collapsed, eventually contracting into a minute mass of dense, compressed energy that would have resulted in another Big Bang event. Either development would not have allowed for enough time or for the necessary elements to combine, to allow life to emerge and evolve.

This leads us to consider the fact that our universe has the inherent capacity and propensity to breed life and somehow manages to configure its architecture to overcome any obstacles to that end. It is as if there is an intention for the universe to create life as a conscious choice. This notion leads us through the Anthropic Principle, as I have related above, and on to the question; if the universe is designed to create life intentionally, how does it know its purpose and how to carry out this function? The question is still unanswered and stands as the major philosophical project of humanity. 

Humans are said to be conscious beings, aware of themselves and their environment and able to use their mind to reason and comprehend their surroundings. Consciousness is not anything that is located anywhere such as in our brains and is not a physical entity either. It is an abstract quality that allows us to define ourselves, and to be aware of our place within the universe.

If we carry this thought structure forward, we can attribute a state of consciousness to the cosmos itself and that this consciousness is the source of everything, namely reality. Thus, a conscious universe creates the necessary ingredients for its creations such as matter and energy or the physics of the universe. Therefore, the notion that matter and energy came first is now in question. Relating to humans then, mind might have always been at the forefront of our evolution and not a later development as our traditional thinking has told us. In fact, a more recent notion is that the mind directs or creates reality as opposed to being a passive recipient of it. Mind and matter then can be viewed as complementary aspects of all reality. This ideology is prevalently held by many eastern religions and is becoming more widely accepted in scientific disciplines as well.

The implication of this discourse then is that the universe might have a purpose and meaning that is integrally tied to our own. Thus, to destroy and defile the Earth goes against our inherent nature and ultimate purpose.

References:

Waking up in Time, Peter Russell, Origin Press Inc., 1122 Grant Ave., Suite C, Novato, CA, 94945, Peter Russell, Purpose—A Design to Creation? pp. 175-180.

“The Anthropic Principle.” The Anthropic Principle: SFSU Physics and Astronomy,physics.sfsu.edu/~lwilliam/sota/anth/anthropic_principle_index.html. Accessed 1 June 2020.

New Metaphysical Foundations of Modern Science. Edited by Willis Harman with Jane Clark, @1994 by the Institute of Noetic Sciences, The Cosmology of Life and Mind, George Wald, pp. 123-130.

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