Fat cat

The mystery of being

Why do we exist? We are self-centred beings and see ourselves as unique and wonderful. And so, we might think this universe is there for us and has a creator who is concerned about us. The odds appear stacked against us being here, so our existence could seem a miracle. But if humans had never arrived on the scene, the other species would still have roamed the Earth, and no cat or fern would have wondered why it exists.

Once you reverse the argument, you might see what is wrong with it. My existence depends on my parents having met each other. My father might have missed the party where he met my mother. My parents, in their turn, depend on the many generations before them. According to chaos theory, small changes can dramatically impact the future. For instance, a butterfly flapping its wings in Texas might cause a hurricane in China.

So, if one of my forebears had done only one small thing differently, for instance, getting up ten minutes earlier on 17 September 1462, I might not be here. The probability of my existence is so close to zero that it might seem like a miracle. Similarly, the odds of humans appearing in the future when dinosaurs were still living, and living creatures on this planet appearing later on when the galaxy was emerging, were negligible.

In a similar vein, people argue that it is unlikely that this universe emerged by chance. The laws of physics and the values of physical constants are fine-tuned for life to exist. That is doubtful. How do we know which physical constants and laws support life? And how does that rule out chance? There could be an infinite number of universes with different laws and constants. This universe might support life by accident. If the universe did not support life, we would not be there to notice it.

Intelligent design proponents claim that undirected evolutionary processes cannot explain the living creatures on this planet. They argue that life on Earth is a miracle that requires a creator. Indeed, the odds for life to emerge in the way it did, were close to zero from the outset, and still, we are here. But evolution is an organising principle that requires no intelligence. Given ample time, the possibilities are endless, and anything could happen. Scientific findings indicate that life on this planet had four billion years to develop.

The mystery of being is not much of a mystery. If the possibilities are infinite, everything that ever happened once had a near-zero chance of happening. But something had to happen, and as a consequence, you happen to exist. Still, we might have a creator as this universe could be a simulation run by an advanced civilisation to entertain someone we call God. But also, in that case, God might exist accidentally, and as a result, so do we.

Latest revision: 19 May 2023

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