Fat cat

The mystery of being

Why do we exist? People have been pondering this question for ages. The findings from science suggest that life on this planet emerged without intent and serves no purpose. We are inclined to see ourselves as unique, so we might delude ourselves by thinking that this universe is there for us, and so it must have a purpose, and therefore, a creator. The odds appear stacked against us being here, so our existence might appear a miracle. But if humans had never arrived on the scene, all the other species would still have roamed the planet, and no cat or fern might ever have wondered why it is there.

Once you reverse the argument, it becomes clear what’s wrong with it. My existence depends on my parents having met each other. My parents had not lived if my grandparents had not married. They, in their turn, depend on the many generations before them. According to chaos theory, small changes in the initial conditions of complex systems can have a dramatic impact on future developments. 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 earlier on one day, I probably would not be here. The probability of my existence is so close to zero that I might consider it a miracle. Similarly, the odds of humans appearing when dinosaurs were still living, and living creatures on this planet appearing 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. But if that hadn’t been the case, it would have been impossible to observe this. There could be an infinite number of universes or big bangs that failed to create universes with different laws and constants. This universe might be just right by accident.

Intelligent design proponents claim that undirected evolutionary processes cannot explain the living creatures on this planet. They believe that life on Earth requires a creator. Indeed, the odds for life to emerge in the way it did, were zero from the outset, and still, we are here. But evolution is an organising principle. 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 a mystery at all. So many things could have happened but didn’t, but something had to happen, and that’s what happened. That’s why the future is unpredictable. And there is not much more to it than that. Many people find it difficult to accept that their life has no purpose. And so religious people may contend that our existence is a miracle and proof of God. Their argument leaves open questions like why does God exist and how did God come into being? The simulation hypothesis does not come with these issues. It does not consider our existence as a miracle but as the product of advanced technology.