Is there a purpose to human existence? Why do you human beings exist? Is our existence, our life, nothing but a random event? Do cows have a meaning or a purpose in life. Why not?
Excerpt from Book: "How Life Really Works"
Book I: Objective Reality
Chapter: 01.14 The Meaning of Life
Due to space limitations, sections in Red are accessible only in the Book or CD "How Life Really Works".
THE MEANING OF LIFE
Conclusion: The Meaning of Life
Dum vivimus, vivamus, Horace (Since we are living, let us live well)
What are we really trying to say when we refer to the purpose or the meaning of life? We use both words synonymously and both convey different degrees of significance, signification, purpose, intent, or objective. However, all of these terms essentially convey a search for an assigned function. The underlying question is, why do human beings exist?
What is existence? We stipulate that an object or event exists, if it manifests itself in an observable manner. Objects that are claimed to exist but that do not manifest themselves in any way, form or shape, do not exist, by axiomatic definition. Anything that human beings claim to exist must show objective evidence to human beings that it exists; otherwise, it would be meaningless to say that it exists. Some Thing may conceivably exist in another space-time continuum or in an alternate universe but, if it does not manifest itself in any form or shape to human beings, it does not exist for purposes of human beings: If it has no effect on human life, we can and we must disregard it.
Human beings obviously exist because they manifest themselves to other human beings: Among other attributes, human beings have mass and appearance that can be measured and observed, both by subjective, physiological means and by objective, scientific standards: Human beings exist.
Since we clearly exist we may ask, where do we come from, why are we here? Is there a meaning or purpose to our life in the sense of an externally or internally assigned function? Alternatively, did random events place us into this universe, without any purpose or reason?
Is our existence, our life, nothing but a random event, the leaf blowing in the wind, the ripple in the stream? If we suggest that there is a meaning or purpose superimposed on human life, what is the mysterious power that imbues our life with such a purpose or meaning? If this obscure power does exist, how does it manifest itself? If this obscure power does not manifest itself to humans in any objective form, it does not exist as far as humans are concerned. Therefore, it cannot convey a preordained or predestined meaning to our life.
Biology defines human beings as animals. Do other animals have a meaning or significance attached to their life? If only human life has meaning, what is it that sets humans apart from other animals? The great apes are the first cousins of humans. Is there a meaning attached to their life? Does a cow, a pig or a monkey have a meaning or purpose ascribed to its life, except to serve as food for humans?
How does human life come into existence? What is it that imbues human life with a meaning or purpose during this process of creation? Can life acquire a meaning subsequent to the creation of life? Is this purpose located in the human body, or is it similar to a soul, ephemeral, without location and without any evidence of its existence? Where was the meaning of my life before I came into existence and where will my meaning go after my death?
What is the meaning of the thing we call life? The dictionary merely tells us that life is the state of being alive. When NASA sent manned rockets to the moon, their scientists had to concern themselves with the possibility of extraterrestrial life that might contaminate life on earth upon the return of the space vehicle. The first step in this analysis was to arrive at a definition of the term life. NASA concluded that life, all life, is the attribute of any system that is a. Capable of replication, b. Capable of energy conversion in order to offset entropy, and c. Subject to the process of evolution.
All life on earth must replicate under the auspices of the process of evolution. The driving force for this basic mechanism of life is the survival instinct, which, in turn, is rooted in the pain/pleasure principle. This principle can be stated briefly: Every living organism, including every human being, always acts in what it considers to be in its best self-interest: To avoid pain and to enhance pleasure. Only organisms that perceive a threat to their existence as an unpleasant emotion, a perception of pain, can survive and replicate.
The existence of this pain/pleasure syndrome in all living organisms does not imply that human beings always act in their actual best self-interest. The genes of every human being compel him to act in what he believes to be in his best self-interest. Any person, who does not act in what he considers to be in his best self-interest, is engaged in self-destructive behavior. Self-destructive persons are insane and society institutionalizes them for their own protection. To be selfish, in the sense of always acting in what we consider to be in our own best self-interest, is the ultimate imperative of all life.
The essence of the process of evolution is the survival of the fittest: The ability of an organism to cope with changes in its environment in order to assure its survival and replication. Without this genetically imposed instinct for survival, an organism cannot perpetuate itself or its species and will thus eliminate itself from further replication and evolution
In the perpetual struggle for survival, all living organisms are constantly engaged in a battle for limited resources. Lower life forms, such as bacteria or earthworms, have little control over their inherently hostile environment. Only man has evolved rational thought processes. Among animals, only man can utilize his rational mind to achieve a higher degree of survival and security in an inherently insecure world.
In an effort to enhance his ability to cope with his environment by understanding the nature of his existence, only man has developed the mental faculties to pose the question: Why am I doing what I am doing? If there is a purpose to life, how can I comply with it or how can I enhance it? Conversely, if there is no purpose to my life, if life is completely futile, if human beings wander around without a preordained meaning or purpose, why not succumb to the adversities of life and resolve all potential future conflicts by committing suicide? "To be or not to be, that is the question..."
The answer is very simple: Evolution has genetically structured human beings to render them incapable of readily committing suicide. Our extremely powerful and all-pervasive survival instinct prevents suicide and makes self-destruction almost impossible, unless a person is mentally severely ill.
This deeply imbedded, genetic survival mechanism makes it possible for the human race, or any other living organisms, to exist. Without our all-powerful survival instinct, which also forces us to perpetuate our genes, the human race would never have evolved and human beings would not now exist on earth.
During the evolutionary period of man, his lack of factual knowledge of Objective Reality severely restricted his understanding of his environment. In order to deal effectively with events in our life we need to possess accurate knowledge of Objective Reality: We need to know how things really are, as opposed to what they appear to be.
In his quest to find a purpose in life that might help him cope with the adversities of life, man has invented supernatural beings. Since he could not cope with the mysterious forces of his environment, he invented gods or other mystical forces that might enhance his survival and security by responding to prayer, sacrifices or similar devotions.
Man thus invented the fiction that gods had created man and that man was under the control and in the service of such superior beings. Consequently, man believed that it was his purpose in life to placate and please these gods by subjugating himself to their will in order to ensure their goodwill and protection.
There is no objective evidence whatsoever that such omnipotent beings actually exist or, if they existed, that they have any effect on individual human lives, or that they can vest human lives with a preordained purpose. If someone claims that there is a preordained purpose to human life, such claim is merely a completely undocumented opinion, at best, or a hallucination, at worst. Not only is such extraordinary claim without any shred of evidence, but it also stands in contradiction to all factual evidence available to man. Rational human beings require extraordinary proof for extraordinary claims
Religious or mythological belief systems require faith. Ambrose Bierce once defined the concept of faith somewhat humorously, but poignantly: "A Belief without evidence in what is told by one who speaks without knowledge, of things without parallel". Any person who accepts as true an unverified statement, which is also in conflict with all available factual knowledge, is unable or unwilling to expose himself to the true nature of Objective Reality.
A person who bases his acts upon unsupported opinions has diminished his ability to cope with his environment in an optimal and efficient manner. This is the folly and the true price humans have to pay if they believe in supernatural beings and try to find a preordained purpose in their existence.
Is it possible to imbue human life with a meaning or purpose during or after the process of its creation? The merging of an egg and a sperm creates human life. This process usually involves one egg and several hundred million sperm.
Two factors determine which sperm will fertilize the egg: The first one is the proximity of a specific sperm to the egg, the mere chance that a specific sperm, with its unique gene load, is in the optimal place at the optimal moment in time. Secondly, of those sperm that are in the closest position for the fertilization of the egg, only the most powerful and healthy sperm will actually reach the egg before any other, less endowed, sperm can arrive. The result, the survival of the fittest, is the essence of the evolution of the species.
Therefore, there are only two factors involved in the creation of individual human life: Randomness and the survival of the fittest. If any other factor contributes to the formation of an individual human being, it does not manifest itself by any means, either at conception or at any point after conception.
Since no other factor in the creation of human life has ever manifested itself objectively, no other factor in the creation of human life exists. Therefore, there is no evidence whatsoever of a preordained meaning or purpose imposed on human life. Human existence is the result of nothing but randomness and the survival of the fittest.
This view of the evolutionary development of human beings, their emotions, and their place on earth may be somewhat disquieting to some persons. A scientific view of the creation of human beings does not provide any objective evidence of a preordained meaning or purpose invested in or imposed on human beings.
We, as individuals, are nothing but the result of a random encounter between an egg and one of many millions of spermatozoa. If I had not come into existence through the random merger of a specific egg and a specific sperm, I would never have come into existence, with or without meaning.
My own existence, as an individual, is an accident based on randomness. There is not one scintilla of evidence that any other factor was involved in my creation. There is no meaning, no significance, no purpose and no manifest destiny to human life.
Religious persons may counter this statement by claiming that a god or gods must have imbued human life with meaning. Not even a scintilla of objective evidence supports this supposition. Merely because the Bible says so, does not make it so.
Some persons find it difficult to accept the random creation of the genetic structure of man because it adversely affects the self-importance and self-esteem of insecure individuals.
Some modern philosophers recognize the lack of pre-ordained meaning in human life. However, they then try to escape the logical consequence of their conclusions. Persons who cannot find a purpose in human life, such as existentialists, find it necessary to invent the notion that we, ourselves, need to give a meaning to our life.
Other escapists from Objective Reality invent imaginary concepts, such as spirits or gods or other mythical, omnipotent and omniscient beings. By some miraculous means, these beings inject human beings with a mysterious concept called meaning or purpose.
If there is no preordained purpose to human existence, what are we to do with our lives? Randomness and the dog-eat-dog world of evolution may be a disappointing and uninspiring way of looking at life and human existence.
However, this is how life is and no flights of fancy into delusions or illusions will alter this fact. We need not whine, merely because there are no gods and no ghosts, holy or otherwise, that can imbue our life with a preordained purpose. Instead, we can benefit from the utilization of our rational mind to enhance our happiness and our joyful experience of life.
Since we owe no allegiance to a superior being who might have inserted meaning into our life, and since we are incapable of committing suicide, we have to contend with this existence, for better or worse. We had no choice in our creation and we cannot readily escape from this existence by terminating it.
Rather than search for a nonexistent purpose or meaning in our existence, we must follow the basic principles that govern all life: We must strive for happiness, a condition of emotional well being we can achieve by eliminating pain or emotional discomfort.
Since human beings are not subject to the demands of illusionary superior beings and since human beings obviously have free will, we have complete freedom to choose how we perceive the word around us. We may or may not be able to change the world to our entire liking but we have the freedom to perceive the world in any way we choose.
We can say life is terrible and ugly, or we can say it is beautiful and enjoyable. We may as well enjoy life to its utmost by taking responsibility for the way we look at the world. The universe does not care one iota if we perceive our lives as miserable or as wonderful: This choice resides solely in us, as individuals.
Our individual life begins with our random creation. While we are alive, our life revolves around our ability to minimize pain and to maximize those of our emotions that enhance our feeling of well-being, our happiness. When we die, randomness takes over again: The Law of Entropy, the ultimate equalizer of the universe, provides for the proper randomization of our constituent atoms.
Moreover, die we must, because there can be no life without evolution and there can be no evolution of the species without the death of its individuals. Our life is a sojourn from randomness to randomness. It is up to us to bemoan or to enjoy the interval between these two events.
Some persons may refer to a rational worldview, free from gods and goblins, as just another one of many belief systems. They are implying that a rational view of Objective Reality is no more efficacious in achieving happiness than religious belief systems. The difference between a faith-based belief system and a rational philosophy of life rests in the rejection of illusions and the affirmation of facts firmly embedded by objective evidence in a framework of science and natural laws.
To declare science a faith-based belief system implies lack of knowledge and suggests obfuscation and self-deception. Science is the very antithesis of a belief system. There is nothing to believe in science. Science does not need faith. Faith is only required if a person chooses to accept a statement as true after science has already exposed it as false. Science does not deal with miracles; science is the domain of objective facts, of precision and repeatability. Science is the implacable opponent of pseudo-science, sometimes referred to as Creation Science.
A rational view of Objective Reality and human existence may show some similarities to the philosophical orientation known as existentialism. Existentialism is a contradictory, unstructured cauldron of the supernatural in the form of theism and atheism, and politics in the form of communism.
Existentialism is a philosophy of despair, bemoaning the lack of meaning or preordained purpose in life. In its confusion, existentialism burdens us with the impossible task of inserting a purpose into our lives ourselves. It then fails to provide us with a rational explanation for the need for such meaning. Existentialism, as espoused by Sartre and Heidegger, bewails the dreariness of human existence, instead of simply exhorting people to enjoy life to its fullest.
Mythology and religion also try to imbue human existence with external meaning or purpose, however implausible and contrary to all objective evidence. Such mystical believe-systems, although completely unsupported by facts or evidence, appeal to many persons. They conjure a reason for living out of thin air by creating an imaginary god who may or may not bestow his imaginary favors upon them.
Religion charges persons with imagined sins; it burdens people with guilt and superstition. It then urges them to pray to a non-existent god in order to absolve themselves from sins they did not commit. This method is clearly counterproductive to the attainment of happiness and joy in life.
Humanism is another synthetic concept which builds on the idea that the purpose of life is to help others and to improve the world and the human condition, without refuge to mythology and religion. Although the term improvement is relative in itself, there is no attempt to explain what humanists mean by terms such as good or improvement. Hitler tried to improve the human condition in his own particular way.
Humanists then proceed to proclaim the inherent dignity of man. There is nothing inherently dignified or undignified about man. Man simply evolved from lower forms of life. The humanistic approach to a meaning in life is faulty because it revolves around erroneous assumptions regarding the evolutionary nature of human existence
By acknowledging our evolutionary need to enhance our happiness, we eliminate all need for a pre-ordained or self-imposed meaning in our life. The mere acknowledgment of the evolutionary roots of our emotions does not constitute a meaning in the sense of an externally or internally assigned purpose.
If every individual makes it his objective in life to lead a happy life in accordance with manís evolutionary, emotional structure, then it is self evident that all of humanity, every individual in the world, would be happy. It is more important to concentrate on the enhancement of our own happiness than to find a non-existent purpose in life, or in wasting our life trying to make other people happy.
We, as individuals, owe nobody happiness and nobody owes us happiness. Happiness is ours to grasp or to surrender, as we choose, in any given moment. We must not willingly surrender to other persons our ability to experience happiness. Other persons cannot make us feel happy. We cannot make other people feel happy. The feeling of happiness, of emotional well being, rests solely within ourselves, within our own grasp.
The attempt to insert a non-existent purpose into human life is counterproductive to mental health and happy living because it precludes us from seeing reality with utmost clarity. An artificially imposed meaning will prevent us from dealing with Objective Reality in the most productive manner.
The search for a meaning in life is analogous to medical quackery because we are allowing superstition and inefficacious conduct to usurp our rational means of dealing with our environment. A search for a meaning or a purpose in our life will impair our opportunity to lead rational, effective lives in a manner consistent with the innate nature of man.
A futile search for an elusive meaning prevents us from correctly aligning ourselves with Objective Reality. It will frustrate our ability to achieve the only real success in life: Optimal, lasting happiness.
The Meaning of Life: Conclusion
Due to space limitations, sections in Red are accessible only in the Book or CD "How Life Really Works".
Copyright © Walter E. Requadt All Rights